Tube TVs did best weathering an overall decline in television sales during the first quarter, largely due to a softening economy and a lower price point than their plasma display panel and liquid crystal display TV competitors.
Total North America TV shipments declined 34 percent in the first quarter over the previous quarter, according to recently released results from . Plasmas fell by 38 percent, while LCD televisions dropped by 35 percent.
But in comparison, shipments of the old CRT (cathode ray tube) TVs slipped only 14 percent in the quarter, the study found.
"We were initially surprised by what we saw. But when we thought about it a little more, it made sense," said Paul Gagnon, director of DisplaySearch's North America TV research. "Consumer spending is down, but people still need to shop for a digital TV, because of the regulatory changes that are coming. And when they shop for an LCD TV, even a small one, they find they're quite a bit more than a CRT and they can't afford a LCD."
Come February, the nation will be transitioning to digital broadcasting. As a result, consumers who own an analog-only TV will need to use a converter box after February 17, or own a television with a digital tuner.
But in searching for a replacement TV, consumers will find the price divide between a CRT and LCD is wide. For example, a 20-inch CRT carries an average selling price of $155, whereas a 19-inch LCD can cost an average of $376, according to DisplaySearch.
"In tight times, when money is scare but you have to buy a new TV, CRT sales will do well," Gagnon said.
During the first quarter, CRT regained its No. 2 position in the North America TV market, representing a 12 percent slice of the overall pie. LCD TVs, as usual, carried the largest slice with 77 percent market share, while plasma's brief flirtation with the No. 2 spot in the fourth quarter fell by the wayside in the first quarter with 9 percent of the market, according to DisplaySearch.
Given economic predictions are calling for continued sluggishness through the third quarter, CRT sales will likely perform better than expected during this time, he added.
That should bode well for major retailers that bill themselves as discounters, such as Wal-Mart and Target, which are a few of the places that carry the older technology CRT sets. Other major retailers carry mainly plasma and LCD TVs.