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Weather, Ultra HD Top Topics For TWICE CES Retail Panel

LAS VEGAS – While bad weather and home delivery issues caused headaches for retailers during the holiday season, CE merchants on TWICE’s annual Executive Retail Roundtable at International CES, moderated by TWICE senior editor Alan Wolf, generally reported upbeat results.

Steve Baker, industry analysis VP for The NPD Group, said when everything was tallied together, about $22 billion was spent during the holidays, up about 5 percent from 2012. Black Friday sales alone were around $4.9 billion, up about 10 percent, he noted.

Dan Pidgeon, chairman of Starpower Home Entertainment Systems, said the poor weather did cause problems during the last quarter, which was the first that the retailer missed its target number.

Tom Hickman, electronics senior VP for the Nationwide Marketing Group, said the weather even caused some retailers to panic a bit and try to make up for days lost when customers could not get to their stores. But overall, he said his retailers had a good fourth quarter even if CE products were not carrying the flag.

The late home delivery issues that garnered so much press around Christmas caused fewer problems than reported, said Soren Mills, chief marketing officer, Newegg North America, although he noted that some of Newegg’s third-party partners did suffer.

Amazon’s Ben Hartman, consumer electronics VP, said the company will work with the delivery companies to see what happened.

Overall, all the panelists said online sales did quite well and that more consumers are becoming accustomed to buying online.

Ultra HD TV has been a big hit at retail, the panelists said, and they are looking forward to when prices come down to the point where it can become more of a mainstream product. There will, however, be a fine line between a moderate price drop and ruining the category by turning it into a commodity.

This was supported by Hartman, who said Amazon has seen millions of people researching Ultra HD on its site, although that interest has not yet translated into millions of sales.

Floor displays are proving a customer draw, said Mike Abt, co-president of Abt Electronics. However, as Pidgeon observed, people are concerned about the availability of native 4K content. This may be alleviated by such moves as Netflix’s announcement that it will stream its in-house production, “House of Cards,” in 4K.

A full report on the Roundtable discussion will appear in the Feb. 17 issue of TWICE.