Don’t Buy a Flat-Screen TV Today – Wait a Few Weeks

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Here's some financial advice: You can't time the stock market, but you can time the flat-screen TV market. We'll tell you just the right moment to invest in the latest tech – and save hundreds.

Their screens may be flat, but their prices aren’t going to be in a just a few weeks. Come Black Friday, expect the cost of flat-screen TVs to drop significantly.

As I mention in the video above, there’s a glut of fat-screen TVs, and retailers will most likely shed that excess inventory starting on Black Friday – that ultra-shopping adventure that starts the day after Thanksgiving.

“North America LCD TV sales have been weak in 2010 so far,” says Paul Gagnon, a director for market research firm DisplaySearch. Sales, he says, are down 3 percent from last year. Why? Because of those old standbys, “high unemployment and a weak housing market” that have “pushed consumers to the sidelines as they wait for the economy to improve, prices to fall further, or both.”

The economy may not improve by this holiday season but prices should, predicts iSuppli, another research firm. The company estimates the average 32-inch LCD TV will cost $250-$300 this holiday season, with sale prices of $200 possible. Today, that 32-inch LCD TV is going for $350-$400. The cheapest name-brand model – the Emerson’s LC320EMX – will set you back $310.

Why the price cuts? A simple case of economic miscalculation. Expecting the new technology to take off, flat-screen manufacturers started building new facilities, banking on the fact that even in recession, Americans would gobble up the latest tech. (Hey, it’s worked for the iPad and iPhone.)

“The boom in capital expenditures – all designed to expand LCD panel production capacity – came in the wake of expected strong demand among consumers for larger-sized LCD TVs,” says Sweta Dash, the senior director for LCD research at iSuppli. “However, the increase has put LCD panel production in overdrive, contributing to an excess in panel supply.”

But even as supply started exceeding demand, retailers didn’t slash prices – they thought this summer’s World Cup tournament would have compelled soccer fans to buy new TV sets, but it didn’t happen. When they finally do so this holiday season, it may be the last time for some time. Both companies, iSuppli and DisplaySearch, predict a “pent-up demand” for flat-screen TVs, and once consumers start buying, prices could rise again. So this may be the season to try to fit a 32-inch flat-screen underneath the Christmas tree…

Stacy Johnson

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