Sony Corp says it might have the strongest ever holiday season in the United States as uncertainty over the U.S. economy fails to dent demand for its TVs, cameras and computers, Sony Electronics' top U.S. executive said on Monday.
Sony's fiscal third quarter ends in December and covers the end-of-year holiday selling season, far and away the strongest period annually for consumer electronic purchases.
I think it could be the best holiday season ever, Stan Glasgow, the president and chief operating officer of the Japanese company's $12 billion Sony Electronics unit, told reporters at an evening press briefing in San Francisco.
There is strong demand for liquid crystal display (LCD) high-definition televisions (HDTVs), digital still cameras and notebook computers, the Sony executive said.
I am judging it by actual orders from retailers, Glasgow said. We are in early November. We know a lot about what is happening in November and December at this point.
He acknowledged fears of a wider consumer slowdown were real in the wake of the U.S. subprime lending crisis.
There are definite negative factors out there that have to affect consumer confidence, Glasgow said, but then declared: I don't know what consumers aren't spending their money on but they are spending it on consumer electronics.
A MORE PRICE COMPETITIVE SONY
Fueling consumer demand is rapid drop in high-definition TV displays below $1,500, with some models down to $1,100 or $1,200, Glasgow said. Consumer demand is focused on 32-inch and 40-inch flat-panel TVs.
Sony remains focused on the higher end of the market at 50 inches and above, the executive said. To stoke demand, Sony is planning to spend more than $100 million on mass market advertising to promote high-definition televisions, he said.
Mike Abary, U.S. senior vice president of marketing for Sony's Vaio computer line, said Vaios are selectively being offered at lower prices than ever before.
While the average price of a notebook computer is $800, Sony continues to focus on selling machines around $1195 or $1295, Abary said. It's average selling price remains around $1,000, since it also offers some machines as low as $600 to $700.
We are staying out of the below $500 market, he said.
Sony, which for decades was known as a technology leader that refused to battle over price, is taking a hungrier, more competitive stance after losing market share in consumer electronics categories it once dominated like music and TVs.
One measure of these changes is the greater freedom Sony Electronics has to develop products suited to specific types of U.S. consumers rather relying on its traditional one-size-fits-all approach.
This year Sony Electronics developed its first TV in the United States, a 32-inch model priced at $799 in a bid to win over retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Rather than relying on parts from Sony or its TV manufacturing joint venture partner Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Sony relied on some off-the-shelf parts, including an LCD display from a third party.
(Editing by Louise Heavens)