Bargain hunters make Vizio LCDs most popular in US -- for now
In these difficult times people are looking to buy what's cheap, a state of mind that Vizio's iSuppli's latest press release isn't ashamed to apply, lauding the company's status as the current most popular brand of LCD television in these United States. It owned a 21.6 percent chunk of the US LCD TV market in the first quarter, up from 13.8 in the quarter before and beat out Samsung to be king of the liquid crystal hill -- largely thanks to prices that were, on average, between $150 and $400 lower than the competition. Kudos to the brand and we hope that it enjoys this moment, because with imports of new sets banned out on bond it must be tough paying an extra $2.50 on each one coming through Customs. Full press release after the break.

Update: To be clear: this is actually a press release issued by iSupply talking about Vizio, not by Vizio.

Vizio Takes No.-1 Position in North American LCD-TV shipments in Q1

El Segundo, Calif., May. 7, 2009-U.S. television maker Vizio Inc. surged into the leading position in the North American LCD-TV market in the first quarter, as dwindling disposable incomes sent consumers flocking to buy the company's low-cost sets.

Vizio's share of North American LCD-TV unit shipments rose to 21.6 percent in the first quarter, up 7.8 percentage points from 13.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to iSuppli Corp. The company surpassed Samsung to take the No-1 position in the North American region.

"Due to its aggressive pricing, Vizio for some time has maintained its position as North America's top-selling LCD-TV value brand," said Riddhi Patel, principal analyst, television systems, for iSuppli. "However, since the onset of the economic downturn, Vizio's share has risen dramatically. With budgets becoming increasingly tight, consumers are finding the company's inexpensive sets more alluring."

In the first quarter, Vizio's lowest Average Selling Price (ASP) for a 42-inch Cold-Cathode Fluorescent (CCFL) backlit, 60Hz refresh rate, full High-Definition (HD) LCD-TV was $850. In comparison, Samsung and Sony 40-inch LCD-TVs with the same configurations carried ASPs of $1,000 and $1,090 respectively.

When comparing 120Hz models at the 40/42-inch size, the price differential between Vizio and Samsung and Sony was $400, with the Vizio set priced at about $1,000.

After first taking the lead in the North American market in the second quarter of 2007, Vizio's share of LCD-TV shipments dwindled to 8.7 percent in the second quarter of 2008. However, by the first quarter of 2009, the company's market share had risen by two and half times the level of the low in the second quarter of 2008.

While Vizio has maintained its low pricing, it has managed to add newer features to its LCD-TVs, such as 120Hz, making them more competitive with those from premium brands like Samsung and Sony.

Another factor contributing to Vizio's success is the company's use of high-powered retail channels to sell its sets, most notably Wal-Mart.

The attached table presents iSuppli's ranking of LCD-TV brands by unit shipments in the first quarter.

Are LCD-TVs must-have items?

North American LCD-TV shipments in the first quarter amounted 6.3 million units. While this was down 23.2 percent from 8.1 million units in the fourth quarter, the decline follows the normal seasonal pattern of shipments peaking in the fourth-quarter holiday season and falling to the low point of the year in the first quarter. Compared to a year earlier, in the first quarter of 2008, regional shipments in the first quarter of 2009 were up by 10.5 percent, indicating the LCD-TV market remains strong despite the economic downturn that has caused sales of most other consumer-electronics products to decline.

Rather than stopping their purchases of LCD-TVs, consumers are focusing on lower-priced sets.

"With LCD-TV sellers in the first quarter maintaining their promotions from the holiday season, and with prices declining, television sales managed to grow compared to the same period a year earlier," Patel said.

Insignificant others

Vizio posted the largest increase in market share and shipments among the Top-5 North American LCD-TV brands.

The combined market share of the smaller players, accounted in the "others" category in the attached market-share table, saw their portion of shipments plunge to 21.9 percent in the first quarter, a significant drop from 29.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008.

"Smaller brands saw their share of shipments decline so rapidly because of increased competition from the premium brands in terms of pricing and availability of 32-inch and smaller sizes," Patel said. "Premium brands priced some of their product lines very competitively with their value alternatives, compelling consumers to go for names that they recognize."

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Bargain hunters make Vizio LCDs most popular in US -- for now