“Our big screen television sets and home theater scenarios sold well,” he said. “TV sets from 27 inches and up along with the accompanying stereo receivers, surround sound speakers–that product is moving very well for us. Of course (RCA) DSS is selling very well for us, but it’s a bigger issue of availability than it is demand.”

On the down side, Coulles said camcorder sales haven’t lived up to expectations. “I’m always a little puzzled by the camcorder business,” he noted. “Business there is fine, but certainly not extraordinary.”

On The Down Side

Robert Wilson, vice president of finance for Roberds, said the chain’s fourth quarter sales are up significantly over last year. “We’re up more in Atlanta and Tampa because we’ve got some new stores in place,” he said. “But even on a comparable-store basis the numbers are real positive.” The chain operates clusters of stores in the Ohio, Atlanta, and Tampa markets.

Wilson suggested that rejuvenated consumer confidence as well as more disposable income have bolstered business.

“My sense is that there is still a lot of money in consumers’ pockets, be it from refinancing or overtime; there’s been a lot of publicity about job growth strengthening the employment sector. People seem to be willing to spend,” Wilson said.

Unseasonably warm weather in some parts of the country may have actually delayed the usual holiday crush. “If anything, the weather early on–October and November–was too good, and people were not focusing on buying,” Wilson noted. “Since then it’s turned a little more seasonal.”

For YES! Inc., which operates Silo, Fretter, Fred Schmidt, and the YES! chains, this holiday season represents a new measuring stick with acquisitions and store closings. YES!, formerly Fretter, purchased Silo from British firm Dixons PLC in 1993.

Danny Horrigan, vice president of retail operations for YES!, said an apple to apple comparison of this year’s holiday selling season compared to last was impossible given the company’s restructuring and the closing of stores in certain markets such as Los Angeles and Chicago.

“Overall, it’s been a good selling season with a couple of weeks still ahead of us,” Horrigan said. “We’re substantially ahead of our projections, but gross margins in certain parts of the country have been placed under attack by people who don’t want to make any money–the Best Buys of the world.”

Horrigan said the softest markets for YES! this Christmas have California, Oregon, and Washington while the company’s Midwest and Eastern markets such as Chicago have been doing exceptionally well.

Faces new retailer competition

YES! also faces new retailer competition in several of its markets: Portland, Ore.; Seattle; Las Vegas and Albuquerque. “The increased competitive pressure on the west side of the country has certainly had an effect on us,” Horrigan said.

Electronics retailers in the Pacific Northwest reported generally favorable business conditions. However, the arrival of The Good Guys! and Tandy’s Incredible Universe in Seattle and Circuit City in Portland, Ore. have intensified competition.

One Seattle-based retailer complained of a supply shortage, saying his chain has been hampered by a shortage of larger screen TVs.

“We’re not getting the flow of product in big screen that we need,” said Peter Edwards, president of Seattle-based Video Only. “Supplies of direct-view sets in the 30-inch and over screen sizes is affecting sales.

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