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Consumer technology sales jump 7 percent in May

BY Doug Desjardins

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. Consumers spending their economic stimulus checks helped consumer technology sales jump 7 percent to $5.4 billion in May, the biggest monthly increase of 2008.

Notebook computers and LCD TVs were the strongest categories followed by digital cameras, MP3 players, inkjet cartridges and desktop computers.

Consumer technology spending had been down 5 percent from January through April. “The stimulus checks played a part in the positive results we saw in May but we still have a lot of ground to make up,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis for the NPD Group.

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Blu-Ray on pace for $1 billion in 2008 sales

BY Doug Desjardins

LAS VEGAS Home entertainment executives said they expect the Blu-Ray DVD format to gain traction this year and approach $1 billion in sales as player prices fall and consumer awareness rises.

“I think we’re going to come close to $1 billion in software sales for 2008,” 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment president Mike Dunn told retailers at the 27th annual Home Media Expo in Las Vegas this morning. That compares to just $260 million generated by Blu-Ray in 2007.

While those sales will represent only 7 percent of the $15 billion in total DVD sales expected in 2008, they’ll more than double to $2.5 billion in 2009 and overtake standard DVD by 2012, according to the Entertainment Merchandisers Association. The industry is counting on Blu-Ray to reinvigorate the DVD business, where sales were flat last year and are expected to decline the next few years.

During the Home Media Expo opening session June 24, Blockbuster Entertainment president Jim Keyes told the audience more than 2,000 Blockbuster stores now have Blu-Ray display areas that give customers a side-by-side comparison of movies on Blu-Ray compared to standard DVD.

Keyes said the chain is also training employees to explain the benefits of the high definition format. “This is the first time in a quite a while that we’ve had something really new to talk about in stores,” said Keyes.

But Forrester Research principle analyst James McQuivey said it would take at least another year for consumers to get on the Blu-Ray bandwagon. “I don’t think you’re really going to see it happen until the 2009 holiday season,” said McQuivey.

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FTC balks at Illinois clinic bill

BY Antoinette Alexander

WASHINGTON —The convenient care clinic industry is applauding the Federal Trade Commission on its recent approval of staff comments regarding the proposed regulation of retail healthcare facilities in Illinois.

The comments were filed by the staff of the Office of Policy Planning and the Bureaus of Economics, Competition and Consumer Protection with state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-North-brook, regarding HB 5372 and the proposed regulation of retail health clinics within the state.

“The FTC comments continue its advocacy of an open and competitive healthcare marketplace where retail-based clinics can play an increasingly important role in providing consumers in Illinois and other states with easier access to high-quality, affordable health care,” said The Convenient Care Association in a statement.

The FTC’s comments addressed Nekritz’ concerns about provisions in the bill that could be considered anticompetitive and her specific concerns over the bill’s prohibition on the location of a clinic “in any store or place that provides alcohol or tobacco products for sale to the public.”

According to the comments, although Illinois’ initiative to provide for the emergence of this new model of healthcare delivery is to be encouraged, “several of HB 5372’s provisions could harm healthcare competition and the emergence of new clinics, without providing countervailing benefits for Illinois healthcare consumers.”

One such provision in the bill would restrict the ability of third-party payers to negotiate lower co-pays with retail clinics and pass those savings on to healthcare consumers. In addition, the rationale for not allowing a clinic in a retail store that also sells tobacco or alcohol is unclear, according to the FTC, as this restriction could limit the supply of retail clinics and the basic medical services they would provide if retail stores were to decide sales of tobacco and alcohol were more profitable than having a retail health clinic.

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