The weak economy hasn't stalled the American consumer's flat-panel fix.
Following a decline last year, North American sales of flat-panel TVs surged during the first quarter of 2009, according to a report released Monday from market research company DisplaySearch. With demand often outpacing supply on some models, 7.2 million flat-panel TVs flew off the shelves, an increase of 23 percent from the first quarter of 2008.
Aggressive pricing followed by Circuit City's liquidation tempted consumers in search of bargains, according to the DisplaySearch report titled "Quarterly Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report."
Former small fry Vizio earned the No. 1 spot as the best-selling LCD vendor for the first quarter, a status it hasn't held since the second quarter of 2007. Vizio's share of the market jumped to 18.9 percent and was the only company to show a sales gain from the fourth quarter of 2008. "Vizio is a relatively young TV brand in the U.S. marketplace, but their strong alignment with mass merchant and warehouse club retailers seemed to put them in the right place at the right time with growing channels," said Paul Gagnon, DisplaySearch director of North America TV Research.
Funai, another company with low-cost offerings, also showed growth in market share--from 7 percent to 8.5 percent. Funai sells the Sylvania and Emerson brands in North America, and added the Philips and Magnavox brands last quarter. Companies with premium flat-panel models, such as Sony and Samsung, saw their market shares decline as consumers flocked to better deals and lower prices.
Last year gloomy sales were predicted for the industry as flat-planel TV shipments dropped during the second half of 2008. Sales continued their downward dip over the fourth quarter, showing a 2 percent decline over the previous year.