A couple of weeks ago we returned from Denver’s first CEDIA Expo. It was greeted unanimously as a success, both for the city and for the products that manufacturers demonstrated. However, one thing struck us all as we strolled through the aisles of the new convention center—the flat panel TVs were outnumbered by IP networks and interactive touch panels.
The flat panel TV market, which really started to boom only a few years ago, was once dominated by the high-end retailers and custom installers. That market seems to have jumped ship. While there were still lots of flat panel TVs being shown on the expo floor and in press conferences, they weren’t generating nearly the buzz of the automation products (and this didn’t have anything to do with the altitude).
A story that ran in the Wall Street Journal a week after CEDIA helped to put that all in perspective. It pointed out how several non-traditional A/V stores are now jumping into flat panel sales. One store, Office Depot, isn’t even remotely involved in home theater sales, yet, the retailer is adding flat panel TVs to its lineup in October. The clothing store Kohl’s is also getting into the game, as is Home Depot (which currently only sells CE through its online store). The article noted that Costco did $1 billion in flat panel TV sales in the first 44 weeks of it’s fiscal year. That’s a lot of TVs that weren’t sold by Best Buy, Circuit City or the regional dealers. Yes, high income, high-end spenders still crave and buy flat panel TVs, yet they don’t feel nearly as compelled to shop in the specialty shops as they used to. In addition, the rest of America can also afford the products now, and they’ll buy them from whoever can offer the best price.