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TV Makers Watching for a Second Record Year of Sales

August 29, 1994|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — TVs are big this year--in sales and size.

So big in sales that makers are a little worried about meeting demand in December and January, their biggest sales period.

And so big in size that delivery crews are now packing tools and extra padding to remove doors and squeeze down hallways.

"We run into problems getting into people's houses, especially in areas of the East and West where homes are smaller," said Chuck Cebuhar, general manager of the home electronics business at Sears, Roebuck & Co. "They go in with tools they're going to need to make some tight turns and stand the TVs on ends."

After going through a slump during the recession from 1990 to '92, the U.S. TV business is turning in a second consecutive record sales year. About 12 million color TVs were sold from January through July, up 6% from the same period for 1993, according to the Electronics Industries Assn. More than 24 million are expected to be sold in all of 1994, contrasted with 23.1 million last year.

Sales of more expensive projection TVs were up 37%, with more than 125,000 sold through the first seven months of the year. And sales the TV-VCR hybrids that took off in 1993 have been up 55% rate, with more than 1 million sold through July.

The sales figures are being driven by increased consumer confidence and lower prices for models with big screens, executives said.

"While most of us were quite bullish in terms of what we thought the business was going to be like this year, it's turned out to be a pleasant surprise," said Gerald McCarthy, an executive with Zenith Electronics Corp.

"I never thought we'd build this many color TV sets," said Joe Clayton, vice president of sales at Thomsen Electronics, the No. 1 TV maker. It expects to sell 5 million sets this year under the RCA and GE brands.

"It's higher than expected because the economy's bounce helped," Clayton said. "We had a strong '93 coming back and are having an even stronger '94."

It is the drop in prices for larger screen TVs that has fed much of the sales growth. Faced with a price difference of $200 or less, many people who had been considering 19- or 20-inch TVs are buying 25- or 27-inch models. And some owners of mid-size TVs are moving up even though their current TVs are fine.

For the first time, 25-inch models are outselling 19- and 20-inch models, said Cynthia Upson, spokeswoman for the Electronics Industries Assn. The trade group that estimates 42% of all TVs sold in the first seven months of the year had screens 25 inches or larger.

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