Circuit City and Best Buy Show Profitless Prosperity in LCD TV Sales

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Includes: BBY, CCTYQ
by: William Trent, CFA

We already heard from Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Circuit City (NYSE:CC) that price competition on flat-panel television sets was hurting profit margins.

Holidaysales Blog - WSJ.com : ‘The Year of the LCD TV’

Consumers spent $8.75 billion on TVs, gadgets and other technology items from the week of Black Friday through the week ending Dec. 23, according to the NPD research group. “This was the year of the LCD TV,” NPD declared in a press release, reporting that $924 million of that total was spent on such TVs and that unit growth doubled from last year. The top-selling size of flat screen was 32-inch LCD and the average price of such models dropped to $796 from $1,354 during the 2005 season. The No. 2 spot went to 42-inch plasma.

So twice as many units at $796 equals total revenue of $1,592 compared with $1,354 last year. 18% growth doesn’t sound too shabby. The problem is, with gross margins of 23% over the last year it doesn’t take much of a drop in margins to wipe out 18% revenue growth. In fact, all it would take is for margins to drop just below 20% (three percentage points) for the profitability to show no growth at all.