Credit crunch movies

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The economic downturn has had a grave affect on many industries, with the consumer electronics sector being no exception. However, as consumers cut costs and look for cheaper ways to entertain themselves, there is still profit to be had. Epson’s projector product manager, Graeme Davidson explains: “With the credit crunch hitting hard now, consumers are looking to make investments in hobbies and past times that they can conduct at home – such as family film nights in instead of going to the cinema, with quality and reliability guaranteed”.

For the overall projector market, there is certainly a solid base to build from in 2009, as 2008 was a strong year which saw substantial growth – 22.8% in volume and 4.1% in value – compared to the previous year, says data specialist GfK.

Sean Fellows, account manager for IT at GfK comments: “Home cinema projectors have seen their share grow over the past three years to hold just over 14% in 2008 but 20% in value. However, pricing battles within the LCD TV market have possibly put a dampener on their success towards the latter half of 2008. DLP projectors have been fuelling this growth within the home cinema projector market, with competitive pricing making them an attractive offer”.

According to GfK, the largest sales volume share for home cinema projectors in 2008 was in the £400-£499.99 price bracket.

Hi-def homes

One of the biggest influences on the home cinema projector market over the last year or so has certainly been the exponential increase in the popularity and household penetration of High Definition TV (HDTV) and Blu-ray. Chris Hirst, Sony product marketing manager for Projection and Commercial Display comments: “The industry adoption of the Blu-ray standard has been a huge driver in the growth of the home cinema sector, bringing HD content to the consumer marketplace. Increasingly, consumers are looking for HD display devices that will do full justice to HD content and give them the opportunity to create a true cinematic experience in their homes. Furthermore, the adoption of Blu-ray as a standard has increased consumer confidence, reassuring buyers that they are investing in technology which will not become redundant overnight”.

The success story of the gaming sector has also had a positive affect on projector sales.

Gareth Day, product marketing manager at Sanyo explains: “Seeking an immersive gaming experience, the continued growth of the gaming industry has also created a similar demand for large screen sizes. The ability of projectors to create large images at a relatively low cost makes these units ideal for gaming. While HDTV and Blu-ray have provided a catalyst for full HD 1080p resolution units, projectors used mainly for gaming have tended to be of a lower resolution”.

But the use of projectors for video games has not only increased amongst hardcore gamers, but also the new market of so-called ‘non-gamers’, successfully targeted by the Nintendo Wii. The easy-to-use console has seen an increase in the amount of women and older consumers getting involved in gaming. The Wii’s growing popularity with families is set to give the projector market even more of a boost.

Sanyo’s Gareth Day suggests the change in retail channels for these products has also affected the sector.

“New distribution channels have also influenced the UK market in 2008 with increasing distribution from mail order businesses and shopping channels. However, product available through these channels has tended to have lower performance in terms of resolution and wider image quality. Consequently, traditional home cinema specialists should remain focused on the Full HD market where they can add value to end user purchases.

Projector technology

There are various types of projector technology available, all with their own benefits and drawbacks – the main two being LCD and DLP (Digital Light Processing).

Epson’s Graeme Davidson explains the benefits of LCD projectors, commenting: “3LCD projectors use three LCDs to crisply reproduce bright, natural images that are easy on the eyes. This makes Epson projectors perfect for watching movies on the big screen. With LCD projectors, you get beautiful colour in clear, defined images – even in a bright room, and you get more than double the colour luminance brightness”.

Epson recently introduced the EH-DM2 all-in-one projector which sports a built-in DVD player and speakers making it simple to plug and play. It has also just launched the EH-TW5800 which boasts Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) certification so that it can be professionally calibrated for the optimum picture.

Sanyo’s latest model – the PLV-Z3000 – boasts a 65,000:1 contrast ratio along with new frame interpolation technology for smooth playback on fast images.

Although LCD projectors are generally good for use in well-lit rooms they can suffer from the ‘chicken wire effect’, which makes the image appear pixellated. The main alternative to LCD technology is DLP.

DLP projectors, offered by manufacturers such as Optoma, InFocus, and Planar, are generally more expensive than their LCD counterparts, although they are coming down in price. These enable a higher contrast ratio but may also suffer from drawbacks, such as the ‘halo effect’.

Optoma recently introduced the HD82 DLP projector along with the EP783S for the professional installation market which boasts wireless capability.

JVC’s projectors use D-ILA technology which appears on several of its models, including the high-end DLA-HD750B, and enables extremely deep black levels.

Sony’s projectors have been designed with gamers in mind, boasting Motionflow technology to ensure that fast-paced images are always in focus and the SXRD panel that ensures rapid response times.

Sony’s Chris Hirst explains the benefits of SXRD projectors: “Set to make big waves as the technology becomes more affordable than ever in the home cinema arena, it is a reflective liquid crystal on silicon panel device for use in projectors, which is able to achieve a pure panel contrast of over 3,000:1 with the a full HD resolution.” He goes on to explain that the technology allows for a high contrast and rapid response time to ensure that details, tone and motion are replicated perfectly for fast-moving movies or games.

Sony has recently launched two projectors, including the HW10 which boasts a 35,000:1 contrast ratio and Bravia Engine 2 processing and is aimed squarely at the home cinema enthusiast. It also introduced the VW80 for less casual users and those with dedicated custom install space.

Indie support

Many home cinema projector manufacturers offer tailored support for independent retailers, including Sony which operates a specialist dealer programme. This includes offering indies great access to commercial terms, space on the Sony website and various other margin-enhancing opportunities (call 0870 60 60 456 for more information). Epson offers PoS material to support the products in store and has a new campaign in the pipeline.

So what can we expect from this sector in the near future?

Epson’s Graeme Davidson suggests: “Minimising the number of cables being used is always a consideration when purchasing home cinema equipment so improving wireless HD technologies will be absolutely key for growth in home cinema”.

The future may also bring more pocket-size models such as Optoma’s Pico projector.

Sales tips:

  • Know your product, inside out.
  • Set the projector up from scratch and familiarise yourself with a few Blu-ray sequences which show off the projector at its best.
  • Demonstrations are essential – seeing is believing.
  • Perhaps hold a staff movie night so they can experience the products for themselves, then they will be able to spe
    ak from experience.
  • Find out whether the consumer will be using the projector primarily for gaming, sports etc.
  • Find out what sort of room the projector will be used in paying particular attention to size, light levels etc.

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