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Hot For The Holidays

Here’s a look at where top CE merchants are placing their open-to-buy bets for Holiday 2004, and whether there’ll be enough holiday cheer (read DLPs) to go around:

Larry Mondry, CEO, CompUSA

Holiday picks: “Anything in some sort of flat-screen TV or monitor or combination of the two. It’s the strength of the business: LCD, DLP, plasma and LCD monitors.

“For us, the notebook side is also very strong. In fact, we expect this to be a pretty computer-oriented holiday. The replacement numbers have been picking up since Y2K. Consumers want the new features and the relative values, and sales have also been influenced by the explosive number of people connecting to the Internet with broadband. So networking and network installation will also be very strong.”

Supply situation: “Flat panel will be tight. It happens any time you have a popular product. That’s retailing 101. There’s a distinct possibility that we may direct source some flat-panel TV, but overall I don’t expect any spectacular shortages.”

Dave Workman, president/CEO, Ultimate Electronics

Holiday picks: “Our read is that HDTV will continue to be strong and that MMDs [microdisplay devices] are the drivers there. DVD will also remain a core category, but we’ll be battling the average selling price. Combo units are doing well, but the industry is too optimistic about the take-rate of recordable DVD. As usual, we’ve confused the hell out of the customer with different formats.

“Digital still cameras will also be strong. Their unit velocity continues to grow as the megapixels increase and the price points become more affordable. At the higher end, $1,000 and up, we’re also seeing some really nice demand for the removable-lens cameras, so you’re seeing activity at both pricing extremes. DVD camcorders are also a nice business. The format change represents a nice refresh, and is helping us drive prices back up to the $700 to $1,000 range.

Supply situation: “We’re optimistic about the availability of MMD. There are a lot of places to go for supply.”

Philo Pappas, senior VP/merchandising, Tweeter Home Entertainment Group

Holiday picks: “Complete home theater and home entertainment solutions, which includes flat video, media servers and a hidden audio solution. We’re especially bullish on microdisplay technology, including rear-projection LCD and DLP. We also see media center PCs as an emerging trend in the fourth quarter, although there will be a limited number of vendors who offer this product.

“We expect to enjoy a solid holiday season in recordable DVD, with offerings from $199 to $499. Other key gift giving items will be digital still and video cameras, smaller LCDs, and iPods and other hard disk drive personal music players.”

Supply situation: “We’re working with manufacturers now and are comfortable that our supply requirements will be met. They haven’t said anything to suggest otherwise.”

Frank Sadowski, VP/CE,

Holiday picks: “HDTV, notebook computers and digital cameras will continue to be huge, dominant categories through the fall. In particular, 4- and 5-megapixal digital cameras sub-$400 represents a great opportunity for customers and gives them a reason to step up from the $200 level. Another growth area is portable music devices, which is an incredible category for Amazon.”

Supply situation: “Suppliers are predicting that increased production of LCoS and DLP should be sufficient to cover demand, although based on their history, I’m not so sure. There will also be tightness in sub-$1,000 digital SLRs and the mini iPods, which are really, really hard to get.”

Warren Mann, executive director, MARTA Cooperative of America

Holiday picks: “We like new technologies that our guys can sell, like KiSS Technology’s DivX and Windows Media 9-enabled DVD players that can output a streaming 720p picture from Web sites. It’s a much quicker and affordable step toward realizing the true capability of consumers’ HDTVs than waiting for HD-DVD or Blu-ray. It’s also the kind of stuff that’s not easy for Wal-Mart to explain.”

Supply situation: “I think vendors will woefully underestimate the demand for glass [CRT] HDTVs as prices hit $599 for a 26-inch widescreen set.”

Dan Schwab, VP/marketing, D&H Distributing

Holiday picks: “We see many IT vendors, such as BenQ, ViewSonic and Linksys, launching CE products that are getting great interest. We’re also stocking up on DVD players with up-converters, which provide a higher interpretation than typical progressive scan players, so that the picture becomes more high-def.”