Annals of Cheap: 32-inch flat screen TVs
Now’s the time to buy a TV if you’re in the market to replace the old analog CRT clunker that’s been your backup. Prices for mid-size and small flat screen sets are as low as they’re ever going to get owing to several factors that happened to have converged during the last few months.
According to an article in the Mainichi Shimbun, the average price of all the TVs sold in May was a little more than ¥53,000. Moreover, the average price of TVs in the 30-39 inch size range was ¥49,000. That’s a decrease of 30 percent and 40 percent, respectively, from the same month last year. And since those are general nationwide averages, the savings become even starker when you go to discount electronics stores. In March, the average price of a 32-inch flat screen TV set at a discount store was in the ¥50,000-60,000 range, and then dropped to below ¥39,000 in May. Right now, Bic Camera near Yurakucho Station in Tokyo is selling the most vanguard types — energy-conserving LED TVs — for about ¥50,000, but older models are going for as low as ¥30,000. The store’s sales of TVs are 80 percent higher than they were for the same period last year.
There are a number of reasons for the price drop, some expected, some not. In December, the eco point system of government subsidies to promote sales of energy-saving appliances was revised and thus sales of new TVs declined in the new year. That was expected. Also expected was a further decline in sales after March, when the eco point system would be discontinued altogether. However, just before that deadline, manufacturers and retailers expected sales to spike, since people would be flocking to stores to take advantage of the eco point system at the last minute.
What they didn’t expect was the big earthquake of March 11, which effectively dampened consumption. Consequently, a lot of the inventory that retailers expected to move in March didn’t actually move, and while the earthquake also delayed the launch of new products, which normally takes place in April, it was important for both retailers and makers to get rid of the old inventory as quickly as possible.
Another factor is that Japanese broadcasting will go fully digital after July 24, which explains the push to sell smaller TV sets. During the eco point campaign, most households replaced their main analog TV with larger digital models — over 40 inches, in most cases. Now, they can replace their smaller secondary analog sets with smaller digital models, so retailers are making a concerted push by discounting older 32-inch TVs as low as they can before the new 32-inch models are launched.
According to BCN, a marketing research company interviewed by Mainichi, the frenzy of price-cutting seems to have died down, but both manufacturers and retailers are nervous about what will happen after July 24. Essentially, they want to start promoting the newer, more expensive large-screen TVs, as well as sets that offer 3D. The worry is that consumers may have been “infected” by the discounting trend of the last few months and thus will wait until the usual end-of-year sales before checking out the newer merchandise.