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Industry Shows Its Strengths During CES

In a time of war and recession, the consumer electronics industry and International CES were thankful for their innate strengths. That was the appraisal of not only CEA president/CEO Gary Shapiro, but of the many CES attendees who were here earlier this month.

Shapiro and CEA, organizer of International CES, had plenty to be thankful for.

During a recession and a time when many are reluctant to travel, the annual event still drew 97,962 attendees and 2,000 exhibitors occupying 1.2 million square feet of exhibit space, and featured the opening of the new South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

While this year’s attendance was short of last year’s 126,000, Shapiro was proud to report that CES has grown. CES “is now twice the size of any other American technology trade show, and we’ve become the world’s biggest and most important showcase for consumer technology.”

Not only did the show draw strong crowds, it also drew more than 80 government officials, senior executives from the broadcasting, cable, computer, telecommunications, Internet and other industries, and keynoters such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Samsung’s Dae Je Chin, Hewlett-Packard’s Carly Fiorina, Philips’ Gerard Kleisterlee and Sprint’s Bill Esrey.

Or as Shapiro put it in his opening day keynote, “We have the CEO of every major cable company and the leaders of the broadcasting, satellite, motion picture, video game, Internet and computer worlds attending, speaking or exhibiting.”

Home networking became more than just a buzzword at CES, with many companies showing actual product. And there were further technological developments and introductions in digital TV, satellite radio, recordable DVD, DVD-Audio, Super Audio CD, flash memory products and many other categories.

Shapiro said that this year’s CES is “important on many levels. For one, it is our industry’s showcase to the world. It kicks off our year and 2002 promises to be a year of both challenge and promise. We face the challenges of a tough economy and tough issues. If we learned one thing after Sept.11, it is that relationships are important. We need to meet face-to-face… and build relationships.”

One of the crowing jewels of this year’s show was the long-awaited opening of the new South Hall. “Several years ago we asked Las Vegas to expand the convention center so we could help our attendees travel all over town.”

More important than the popularity of the show was the strength of consumer electronics sales during the holiday season. Shapiro reminded his audience of CEA’s solitary, and accurate, prediction in October that “strong holiday buying helped our industry end 2001 on an upswing and provided momentum for 2002. CEA continues to believe that our industry has every reason to remain cautiously optimistic.”

He added, “Despite the bumps and bruises, the industry had a good year, especially when it came to new technologies.” (See story on p. 4 for a full breakdown of category-by-category factory sales from CEA.)

Major retailers who were in attendance reported good sales for December, considering the economic environment (see p. 1), and those who participated in the CES Retail Power Panel (see p. 1) were optimistic about prospects for the new year.