Retail Turns a Corner
Eddie Maloney, president, Cowboy Maloney's Electric City, Jackson, Miss.: Sales were down compared to last year, but our retail business was up. Probably about 20 percent of our business is builders' business, and as everybody knows, that was way off. About 80 percent is retail, and that business was up. TVs did well. Our appliance business held pretty well considering housing starts were down so far. The high-efficiency upgrade appliances did well in a really tough market because people realized they could save money on their utility bills, with front-loading and high-efficiency top-loading washers. But I wouldn't say people were really that "green conscious." They were more "money-green conscious" than "environment green."
Burt Krieger, president, Boscov's, Reading, Pa.: The appliance business was down because of the lack of housing starts and slower home sales. Also video/electronics business has been down. There was no urgency for the changeover to digital that existed last year. Consumer demand isn't as elastic as it was then, with people anticipating that they would have a TV that wouldn't work. Because of the economy, there's been a pullback in what we perceive to be equal-value pricing. We're trying to maintain the business at a profitable level, and that has resulted in a total lower volume for us because we're not chasing things below cost or doing irrational things. But we're trying to be competitive at the same time. So those things, together, have resulted in a down business, although we were up in the last week of October.
Some bright spots were smaller screen sizes, 32 inches, especially. We used to cut our teeth on 42s and 50s; both have been down a bit, but the smaller sizes [have] price points that are more affordable to almost everyone replacing the bedroom TV.