Discount Retailers Gaining at the Expense of Big Box Stores

by: Jim Woods

"It looks like it's been furnished by discount stores." -- Jackie Kennedy on her first look inside the White House.

The former first lady may have found the White House accoutrements a bit gauche, but nowadays, early adopters of the ChangeWave Alliance have no problem getting their consumer electronics items from discount stores.

In our latest consumer electronics survey, conducted in June, we polled 3,881 Alliance members on their electronic gadgets and home entertainment shopping, including their store preferences.
We found an emerging trend in respondents' shopping behavior: a shift away from the traditional big box electronic stores toward discount retailers for home electronics gear.

For the third-consecutive survey, respondents reported an increased preference for buying their home entertainment and computer networking products from leading discounters Costco (NASDAQ:COST) (up two percentage points to 26%) and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) (up two points to 15%). A third leading discounter, Target (NYSE:TGT), experienced a three-point jump to 8% since our previous survey.

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Conversely, we saw a decline among the "big boxes."

Although Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) -- down three points to 51% -- was still the most- preferred store overall, its preference rating was down for the second-consecutive survey.

Circuit City (NYSE:CC) suffered an even more daunting fall -- down five points to 17% -- and Comp USA declined to a new all-time low, dropping four points to 5%.

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When you view the above charts together, you can see two distinct trends: Increased momentum among the discount retailers and a decreased consumer preference for the big box stores.

A Closer Look at What's Hot

Above and beyond the current iPhone mania, we've taken a look at what's hot and what's not in the consumer electronics space. Here are key highlights:

Digital Cameras -- According to consumer respondents, digital cameras have the greatest momentum going forward for the next 90 days, up two points to 13%.

Televisions and TV Service Providers -- While overall interest in LCD TVs (14%) remained unchanged from our previous survey, we noted that LCDs still topped the list of products consumers said they plan on purchasing during the next 12 months.

On the home TV services front, the clear momentum winner remained Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), which has increased its market share lead among U.S. and Canadian cable TV providers by two points since March. At the same time, DirecTV (DTV) (down one point to 11%) and Dish Network (unchanged with 11%) remained in a tie in the satellite market, while Verizon's (NYSE:VZ) FiOS TV (2%) picked up another point.

Importantly, 13% of the survey respondents said they plan to switch TV service providers in the next six months, and Verizon FiOS TV (up six points to 29%) and DirecTV (up four points to 29%) are set to benefit most. On the downside, Dish Network declined nine points to 10% since the previous survey.

High-Def DVDs -- In the high-def DVD war, Toshiba's (OTCPK:TOSBF) HD-DVD player remained the market share leader with 7% over the Sony (NYSE:SNE) Blu-Ray with 1%.

Looking ahead, 3% of respondents said they plan to buy an HD-DVD player (up one point), while 1% said they plan to buy a Blu-Ray player (unchanged), and another 2% said they plan to buy a player capable of both formats.

Apple Products -- Ownership of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPods was up slightly since our previous survey -- led by the iPod Nano (up two points to 15%). And while just a small number of respondents reported owning an Apple TV, an impressive 8% said they are likely to buy one in the next 90 days.

We also noted that Apple's iTunes extended its lead as the most popular music downloading site -- 34% of respondents said they currently use the service (up six points from March).

Paul Carton co-wrote this article.
This article summarizes the results of a recent ChangeWave Alliance survey. The Alliance is a research network of 10,000 business, technology and medical professionals who spend their everyday lives working on the front line of technological change. For more info on the ChangeWave Alliance, or if you are interested in joining, please click here.