Walmart recently announced that it was expanding the number of HDTV models that it will offer, but that apparently will be primarily for online sales. The company has announced plans to actually shrink the display space allocated to consumer electronics products in their brick and mortar stores.
Part of the move is due to their perception that the flat panel TV market has stabilized a bit, and sales growth will taper off now that most U.S. consumers have dealt with the analog-to-digital transition. As a result, the in-store mix will shift toward smaller devices including tablets and smart phones, including Apple products.
While I’m not sure how much the digital transition had to do with it — most U.S. viewers rely on cable or satellite service and don’t use tuners on their TVs in most cases — it does make sense that the feeding frenzy may be subsiding and consumers won’t feel a compelling need to replace the sets they’ve purchased in the recent years. And it also seems that online marketing is going to play an increasing role in consumer electronics going forward.
On the other hand, televisions are one of the few products that I want to see in person before I make a buying decision. I recognize that it is an expensive proposition to outfit all the Walmart stores with a complete inventory of sample HDTVs, but I have to wonder whether or not customers will just decide to go elsewhere when they want to kick the tires on a new TV.