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Mio Plans Black Friday Block Party For GPS

Fremont, Calif. – Mio, the No. 4-ranked GPS supplier, is planning a guerilla marketing campaign for its GPS portables over Black Friday that will include entertaining early-bird shoppers and providing product demos as the shoppers wait on line.

The company said it is considering marketing tactics such as serenading shoppers queued up by the door before the stores open, and handing out coffee and donuts. It also plans demos of the high-end features available on personal navigation devices (PNDs) to educate consumers, said marketing direcor Eric Larsen who likened the promotion to a Black Friday “block party.”

Participating stores were not yet available, but Mio sells through such retailers as Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA and RadioShack.

It was last year on Black Friday that a relatively unknown Mio put itself on the map by offering a door-buster $149 price tag on its C310X PND at Circuit City for one day. At the time, lower-end PNDs sold in the $299 to $499 range.

Larsen said the 310s sold out within minutes per location. “We would talk to the buyer in real time as the store opened and they would sell out while we were on the phone,” he said, noting that stores received 10 to 30 units each.

After Black Friday, pre-Christmas specials on the 310 rebounded back up to $249 and an occasional $199 price tag, still below the market mainstream.

“As we look back, the momentum built on just that one day has had a long residual effect for us,” said Kiyoshi Hamai Mio, sales and marketing senior director.

The company went from “nowhere” to a 37 percent market share for Black Friday week in 2006 when it moved 45,000 units. It ended the year with a 5 percent market share overall, said Larsen.

Year-to-date sales in 2007 through August place Mio in the No. 4 spot behind Garmin, TomTom and Magellan, with a 6.8 percent share in GPS unit sales to consumers, according to The NPD Group.

Larsen said Mio was able to build on the Black Friday momentum because it offered a family of GPS products while many suppliers offered only one.

“The buyers went to the manufacturers who could supply multiple products,” Larsen said.

Mio would not reveal upcoming Black Friday pricing at this time, but industry members say they expect to see door-busters as low as $79 to $99 for the industry.

Analyst Mike Ippolit of ABI Research agreed, “Mio is a rising star. Yes, they did come on with a broad range of products and they are innovating rather rapidly. Their new product has a camera in it so you can take pictures with your PND and geo-tag them. No one else is doing that.”

Mio is not, however, stealing share from other players as the market is growing rapidly, Ippoliti said.

Mio’s new camera/PND is the DigiWalker C720t shipping this month at a suggested $599 with a 4.3-inch screen. Users can snap a photo of a building or intersection or any location and then navigate to it in the future. This photo feature was first offered by the discontinued Navman brand, which was purchased by Mio’s parent company Mitac six months ago.

The 720t also operates as a standard PND with real-time traffic capability, Bluetooth, text-to-speech pronunciation of street names and a media player.