Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Blue-and-White monster goes gizmo gaga!

The monster value store chain, Wal-Mart (it's the new K-Mart, y'know) keeps growing and growing. Just as Starbucks is putting it's store on every street corner on the planet, Wal-Mart is content with putting it's monster market on every single vacant lot available.

But world domination doesn't come cheap.

"Wal-Mart is having trouble generating solid year-over-year growth numbers," said Steve Baker, an analyst with The NPD Group. "One of the ways they can start generating a lot of growth is to expand into categories where they haven't been, especially in high (dollar) value products. Flat-panel TVs is one."
That's right! Wal-Mart is going ahead with its own branded gadgets under the "iLo" marque.

(BTW - is it just me, or is every newfangled high-tech doohickey starting to sprout names begining with the pronoun "I" plus something? i.e. iTunes, iPod, Itanium, Insignia by Best Buy, b'y, etc. Should I rebrand my blog "i-2-Dray" for more traffic? Hmmmm...)

Wal-Mart enjoys a fairly unique position as an electronics supplier. It caters to a broad audience of consumers with more than 3,000 stores in the United States and maintains tight relationships with Asian electronics manufacturers, which it can use to turn out its iLo gear.
Translation: expect peasants from the Middle Kingdom to upgrade their skills from oxen and plough to microchips and solder to make good cheap goods. (China is the new Japan, y'know?)

... Wal-Mart's iLo DVD recorder DVDRO4 sells for about $150, meaning it costs between about $50 and $100 less than similar player offered by other brands. Another DVD recorder, DVDRHO4, which comes with an 80GB hard drive, costs about $280, about $90 less than a similar Toshiba model found on Wal-Mart's Web site. For its part, the iLo music player, with 256MB of memory and FM radio tuner, sells for about $80, around $30 to $60 less than other like devices.
Please note to my fellow Canadians: these are U.S. $ prices that the article's talking about. But don't you all fret. Sooner or later, everyone can afford to pirate good clean copies of "Trailer Park Boys" episodes by the truckload.

Not to mention the fact that Wal-Mart also sells 42" plasma sets for less than US$2000. Now that's what I call a freakin' bargain.

Of course you could also get yourself to Future Shop in Canada (owned by Best Buy, by the way, b'y) for the latest in bargain hi-tech (i.e. the Prima brand).

But Wal-Mart's efforts to expand its consumer electronics sales could be limited by the customers it serves and its reputation as a low-price merchandiser.
Yes... blame us for our geargasmic lust. The traditional Catholic sins of greed and envy drive the hi-tech markets. And of course, who has more bragging rights in the race to keep up and eventually beat up on the Joneses? Someone with the latest big-name monitor or some bargain basement knockoff from the Middle Kingdom?

In the end, the customer will always be right when s/he finds the right diamond in the rough.

And time marches on...

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