Panasonic’s Turn in the Box

Okay, we get it. The economic situation is bad. And there’s no safety in being big, as we’ve seen from Sony and Mitsubishi and others. Today, we get word that Panasonic is taking the hit. The company is forecasting a $4.3 billion loss for their current fiscal year (that’s billion with a Big B), and as a result, plans to cut 15,000 jobs worldwide and close 27 plants. Flat panel TV sales were up in the first three quarters worldwide, but down 5% in the U.S. Sales of other consumer electronics were down, bringing the CE division sales down 1% for the first three quarters.

So Panasonic’s layoffs are equal to about one third the population of Harrisburg, PA (which is the state capital); that’s a lot of people. And those job losses and plant closings are going to cascade through their local economies as well as the consumer electronics supply chains, which likely means additional layoffs at other companies. Add to this the fact that the Japanese yen is getting stronger against the U.S. dollar, and Panasonic will find it even harder to sell into the U.S. market.

For the near term, this means that you should continue to find increasingly attractive deals for flat screen TVs and other consumer electronics. Now that the SuperBowl is over and the new housing market is in shambles, there’s little hope of sparking demand for new TVs. If you have cash that you’re willing to spend, you’ll find everyone along the chain happy to help you spend it. (And the prices are crazy; is selling a new (not a refurb) Sharp 52″ LCD TV for under $1,100. That would have been a great price for a Sharp 42″ set not long ago.)

[February 5, 2009: corrected my math error on the population of PA cities, but it’s still a lot of layoffs at one time.]