Christmas Convergence - It's time for Bing to sing, again...

Christmas Convergence - It's time for Bing to sing, again...

What digital home equipment is attracting most consumer attention? From a home-theatre-in-a-box to high-powered systems, Jeanne-Vida Douglas discovers this Christmas shopping period is all about what looks and sounds good.

The first thing you need to know as you're stocking your storeroom for the Christmas rush - is that it probably won't start until Boxing Day, and you would be better off taking your summer holidays in February if you want to pick up on the bulk of sales.

While they might be overlooked in the pre-Christmas rush, digital home entertainment systems suddenly become attractive in the post-Christmas sales as parents face the prospect of entertaining bored kids over the summer holidays.

Product marketing manager for Toshiba, Matt Codrington, predicted Boxing Day and not Christmas Eve would be volume day for retailers and resellers, as consumers put off their big ticket purchases until the pudding's been eaten and the prices are coming down.

"We are going to see some growth in sales in the digital home theatre sector over December, but the real increase will be after Christmas, and over January," he said.

"Traditionally, it's been the high-end audio-visual resellers who take this market, but there are a lot more retailers selling digital audio-visual products now, and the post-Christmas sales are a chance for IT resellers to show what they can do in this area."

Codrington thinks that 2006 is shaping up to be a year of intense activity in the digital-home.

He said resellers should not overlook the opportunity to upsell, cross-sell and converge their product line.

And while he didn't believe the bulk of the sales would come until after Christmas, the pre-Christmas period brought more passing trade so IT and AV retailers would have a fantastic opportunity to show the public what digital home theatre technology was all about.

"Digital TVs, LCD screens, set-top boxes with 200GB hard-drives and dual digital TV tuners, we're expecting growth in all these areas over 2006, and Christmas is a good time to show them off," Codrington said.

"Prices are coming down, and although that means lower total margin per unit sold, volumes will go up and there will be lots of service and support opportunities in this space."

Similarly, technical manager for AMD, Michael Apthorpe, said there was a huge, and largely untapped market for digital home entertainment systems.

"Everybody who has actually had the opportunity to experience a digital home theatre environment thinks it is a great idea, and wants to know how to put one together for themselves," he said.

"It is being addressed at the moment, but it's the small guys and the niche players that are really doing well out of it."

The effort local systems manufacturers, and tier one vendors, have put into creating cost-effective, quiet, high-performance machines is about to pay off, according to Apthorpe, so long as resellers manage to get them in front of consumers, and offer the right combination of service and advice.

"Once you explain how a digital home theatre system works most people are interested in buying one, but they still want help putting it up in their own home," Apthorpe said. "There are enormous service opportunities in this market."

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