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Electronics Firms Strut Their Stuff

June 03, 1986|DONNA K. H. WALTERS | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO — Whaddaya want for Christmas? Maybe a cute pastel pink-and-gray canister vacuum cleaner? A teensy, hand-held television? Or how about drumsticks that make music out of thin air?

Whatever can be imagined in the way of consumer electronic gadgetry is here, filling two major exhibit halls, spilling into three other buildings, beeping, flashing, filming and making joyful noises, all for the benefit of 110,000 or so retailers and distributors attending the summer Consumer Electronics Show.

"My oh my oh my," said an owner of a small Midwestern electronics store, sighing as he surveyed the cavernous area where the most prominent of the 1,400 manufacturers have their booths. "I don't even know where to start."

The show, which covers more than 700,000 square feet of space and ends its four-day run Wednesday, is expected to help such retailers make decisions about what products to stock for the big holiday buying season.

Altogether, predicts the Electronic Industries Assn., the Washington-based trade group sponsoring the annual show, factory sales of consumer electronics will total $26.1 billion this year, a 7% increase from 1985.

It gives retailers such as William Alverson, who operates Laurco Products in Milwaukee, an opportunity to compare products of giant companies such as Sony and NEC with smaller, feistier ones.

Alverson said he was impressed by two things that he had seen at the show by early Monday morning: "The progress of the (South) Korean manufacturers and the picture telephone" being displayed by Luma.

Mingling with the anticipated 110,000 or so attendees are an almost equal number of manufacturers' representatives and sales personnel, just waiting to take an order in private rooms tucked away in corners of the exhibit booths.

Although many of the products being displayed can already be found on store shelves, dozens of new products are being introduced at the show. Some of them--Casio's electronic drumsticks, for instance--are still in the prototype stage.

Music being played on Casio's electronic musical instruments lured customers away from the other side of the company's booth, where tiny TVs with flat, liquid crystal display screens were closed off in a locked display cabinet.

Televisions, video cameras, compact disk players and videocassette recorders were among the hottest items at the show.

The trade group, in fact, has increased predictions that it made just last January for sales of those products this year. For instance, 8-millimeter video camera-recorders such as JVC's just-introduced 2.9-pound model are expected to spur camcorder sales to the 1-million mark this year, a 25% increase from projections made just last winter.

Expectations have dimmed, though, for two other types of consumer electronic goods: home satellite systems and home computers. Although computer makers are expected to sell about 4.2 million of the so-called home computers this year (300,000 fewer than predicted in January), only two major computer makers, Atari and Commodore, even had exhibits.

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