As football season grows closer, electronics stores get busier as fans snap up new TVs.
But exactly what they’re favoring is an entirely different matter.
“It’s such a sticky, crazy market right now for TVs,” said Cayce Wilkinson, store director of Circuit City in Hattiesburg. “One month you’ll sell a ton of projections and the next month you’ll sell a ton of flat panels.”
Last year, flat-panel TVs took major strides in becoming a mainstream product, boosted by aggressive marketing by TV makers and major production capacity expansions by display suppliers. Sales of both liquid crystal and plasma flat -screen TVs soared as prices have fallen. But number-wise, customers have varying preferences.
“If they want a 60-inch size, they’re going to have to go projection,” said Wilkinson. “If they want 42- or 50-inch screens, then they can go plasma mounted on the wall or LCD. It’s not a real issue of selling more of this technology because of this technology, it’s how’s it suited to the customer’s use and lifestyle. The majority of customers end up with the same quality picture straight on, even if it’s projection.”
Jimmy Schwartz, general manager of Comp USA in Jackson, said package deals are all the rage. “We have Direct TV packages with NFL tickets, which gives the customers a great deal, and of course we sell them plasma and LCD TVs to go with them,” he said.
Eddie Maloney, president of Cowboy Maloney, predicted that, a few years down the road, all TVs would be flat screens. “But for now, there are still people who like the large tube TVs, even as manufacturers gear their production and their future to flat panels,” he said.
High-definition, flat panels, plasma and LCD TVs are just about the same price as large-screen projection TVs were five years ago, Maloney pointed out. “You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” he said. “Just like any other electronics product, prices are going to find their level.”
Sound systems are almost a necessity to pair with large screen TVs “to get the entire experience of what your eyes are seeing to go with what your ears are hearing,” said Maloney. “It’s just like a movie theatre, the two have to be matched in size and proportion.”
Also, digital video recorders are becoming the most important part of the video system, said Maloney. “When leaving town, they’re so easy to program,” he said, “and to stop action and review something on live TV makes them extremely hot.”
Doug McLelland, president of McLelland’s Audio Visual Sales and Service, a third-generation company in Hattiesburg, said the “football effect” has definitely kicked in.
“We probably had more people here today (August 4) than the entire week combined, and every one of them was getting ready for football season,” he said.
People buy tube sets only because of the cost difference, said McLelland. “A 27- to 36-inch tube set is usually going for one-third or one-half as much as a 27- to 36-inch panel or LCD,” he said. “Of course, that cost difference is starting to diminish.”
The sales staff at McLelland’s spends a great deal of time educating consumers. “It’s a misconception, for example, that all high-definition TVs are digital, but they’re not,” he said. “And not all digital TVs are high-definition. For instance, last year in March, a vendor couldn’t sell a TV 36-inches or larger that wasn’t a digital set. This year in March, it was 25-inch, and then next year, it’ll maybe be 13-inch and above. That’s confusing a lot of people. We go over this it seems like 100 times a day, which we’re happy to do, because people come in with either not enough knowledge or too much. We have to study this stuff every day just to stay up with it. I don’t even quote prices to anybody anymore because we get new prices every week, sometimes more than once a week. This is our 58th year of being in business and we’ve had more changes in the last five years than we have in the last 35 years.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.