The Regional Riff
Leon SooHoo: There was a slight slowdown in business in September. As for the effects of gas prices, I didn't see anything Katrina-related. California's gas prices have always been high relative to the nation. We did have our increases, but didn't see the extremes of change that the rest of the country did. We did receive a few hurricane refugees in Sacramento.
Dealerscope: Prices of LCD and plasma TVs have plummeted over the past year, in some cases, by 50 percent. Does this worry you? How do you see the flat-panel market playing out for the Christmas selling season—and for its immediate aftermath?
SooHoo: Panel prices, we believe, have reached bottom. We don't think they can go much lower, unless manufacturers are willing to lose money even more. If you go back and look at the TV business prior to flat screen, those were about the prices we were selling them at to begin with. We were selling rear-projection sets anywhere from $1,100 to $7,000 or $8,000. Our margins at Paradyme have improved, which may be a bit contrary to what others are saying. But overall, there could be tightened supplies—the supply issue could be a critical factor. We still haven't seen the big ramp-up of 60-inch-plus TVs we were hoping to see. Some manufacturers are in the midst of model changes now, and some of the other vendors have new product coming in, and we have to work very closely with them. We think there'll be adequate product supply though, at least in our category—the higher end, which is where we swim.