Wal-Mart Gained Significant CE Share In Q1, Study Shows

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Wal-Mart continued to gobble up significant CE market share during the first quarter of 2008.

Conversely, Circuit City and, surprisingly, Costco gave up share during the period, while Best Buy essentially held its ground.

The playing field assessment comes courtesy of the Market Share Monitor, a quarterly report by Banc of America Securities' analyst David Strasser based on The Stevenson Company's Traqline consumer surveys.

According to Strasser, Wal-Mart gained sizeable share across most of the CE universe and remained the dominant share gainer in TVs. He projected that the world's largest retailer will eventually win out in CE as products, particularly flat-panel TVs, further commoditize.

Specifically, Wal-Mart gained.3.6 percent of share year-over-year in large flat-panel TVs (40 inches to 60 inches), up 0.3 percent from the preceding quarter, as price compression makes flat panel accessible to an ever-wider consumer swath.

At the same time Costco lost 1.8 percent of share, attributed to tough year-over-year comparisons and challenges by tier-one vendors to Vizio's opening price-point hegemony.

Best Buy essentially held its market position, slipping a modest 0.1 percent in flat panel, Strasser noted.

Examined by display type, Best Buy enjoyed a 4.8 percent spike in share of large (40-inch to 60-inch) plasma TV share, followed by Wal-Mart with a 2.1 percent gain, while Circuit City lost 2.2 percent and Costco shed 2.7 percent of market share.

The situation was markedly different in large LCD TV, where Wal-Mart gained 4.1 percent of share while Best Buy lost 2 percent, Costco lost 1.5 percent and Circuit City lost 1 percent. Strasser described Wal-Mart's gains in large screen LCD as "critical," as the category has been a stronghold of specialty CE chains and the warehouse channel.

Wal-Mart's gains were even greater in small-screen LCDs (39 inches and smaller). The discounter grew its market share by 6.8 percent in this category, while Circuit City lost 4.1 percent and Costco lost 1.9 percent of share. Best Buy remained relatively flat with a 0.8 percent gain.

"As expected, Wal-Mart's strength in selling smaller TVs is seen in their share gains," Strasser noted. "We believe this pace of gains will continue as TVs progress along their commoditization/maturity curve."

Elsewhere, Apple and Best Buy led the pack in PC notebook growth. Apple's market share accelerated by an "astounding" 5 percent from the previous quarter, Strasser observed, while Best Buy's was up 2.4 percent, suggesting that their recent partnership "is proving mutually beneficial."

In contrast, Circuit City lost 1.3 percent and Dell lost 2.5 percent of notebook share during the first quarter.

In iPods, Wal-Mart grew its share 1 percent over last year, Best Buy regained some of its lost share from the prior quarter with a 0.7 percent gain, and Circuit City shed 3 percent of market share.

In post-paid wireless, RadioShack's share loss improved 0.3 percent from the prior quarter, although the company still lost 0.9 percent of share. Strasser said the chain is feeling the effect of increased competition by carrier stores, particularly AT&T, and will come under additional pressure as Best Buy ramps up its Best Buy Mobile in-store shops.

In video games, GameStop was the principal winner, growing its market share by 2.4 percent year-over-year, albeit at a slower pace than preceding quarters. Wal-Mart lost 2.1 percent, Best Buy and Target lost 0.1 percent, and Circuit City lost 0.2 percent during the three-month period.

In major appliances, Sears continued to bleed share for the 13th consecutive quarter, losing 1.9 percent during the first three months of the year. Lowe's grew its majap market share by 1.5 percent, Best Buy's was up 1.1 percent, and Home Depot was essentially flat, losing 0.2 percent of share.

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