Spurred in part by flat panel TV sales, Wal-Mart reported a 6.7% increase in sales for July compared with a year ago. Given the uncertainty of the economy, higher food and gas prices, and rising unemployment, it’s interesting to see that flat panel sales continue to be strong at Wal-Mart.
I have to wonder what the product mix is in these sales figures. Is it primarily smaller-size bargain brand models, or are the larger top-brand products also selling? How much of this was fueled by the stimulus checks, and will we see similar strong sales for August? Summer is traditionally a slow time for TV sales, so it takes fewer units to make a bigger percentage impact, so these gains could easily be wiped out in the coming months.
And I’m also curious how the other retailers “up stream” of Wal-Mart are doing. Comparable store sales were also up for Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club, but down at Target. Are these increases eating into the sales at consumer electronic big box stores such as Best Buy and Circuit City? And what about the AV specialty stores?
The LCD manufacturers have spent the summer trying to figure out about how many panels to produce, with many cutting back their output to avoid adding to their existing inventory. They are clearly nervous about the level of orders they will get from the LCD TV manufacturers, who in turn are worried about whether consumers will show up during the holiday buying season. If the retail sales go soft, expect to find some great bargains as early as October this year.