DisplaySearch has released their preliminary data on the flat panel TV market for the first quarter of 2009, and it indicates that the market was much stronger than might have been expected. The company tracks manufacturer shipments, not the actual retail sales. (Retail sales are tracked by DisplaySearch’s parent company, NPD.) LCD TV shipments declined for the first time ever in the last quarter of 2008 — no surprise given the lousy economy and huge inventory backlog at retailers — but then rebounded to a 23% increase in the first quarter of 2009, compared with the first quarter of 2008.
One highlight of the results was the fact that Vizio regained first place in the LCD TV segment, pushing Samsung and Sony into second and third place. Vizio also showed a 21% increase in unit market share in LCD TVs over the prior quarter, while Samsung and Sony both posted share declines of about 26%. Another interesting fact is that Samsung also took second place in plasma TVs behind Panasonic, but second in plasma and LCD was sufficient to give Samsung the #1 position in total flat panel TV unit shipments with an 18.2% market share. This was enough to just top Vizio’s 17.9% overall flat panel share.
As DisplaySearch points out in its analysis, Vizio has done well with its discount retailer distribution which is where consumers have turned in order to get the lowest price possible for their flat panel TV purchases. The question will be what happens for the second half of this year. The LCD plants are returning to full production, but manufacturers are also trying to squeeze a price increase out of the market. Will this be a recipe for suppressing consumer demand that could result in another inventory pile-up next winter? Or will aggressive competition keep prices low so that consumers keep buying? It would appear that Vizio is probably in a good position to do well in either case.