Sales of Sharp LCD TVs to soar in U.S.

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Sharp Corp. said Thursday it expects to sell more than 1 million large LCD TVs in North America in the business year to March, about five times more than last year as demand surges in the U.S. market.

Sharp has been able to grow its share in the over-60-inch segment this year by expanding its product lineup to 18 models from last year’s four and widening its sales channels, the firm said.

“It is very clear that our focus is more than 60 inches,” Kozo Takahashi, Sharp’s executive managing officer who oversees the North American market, said at a news conference in Osaka shown via teleconference in Tokyo.

Sharp held about 40 percent of the U.S. over-60-inch LCD TV market last December. While it was topping other makers at that point, the firm increased its share this year and had about 77 percent of the market as of the fourth week of November.

Takahashi said Sharp had set a goal of selling more than 1 million TVs bigger than 60 inches in the North American market this fiscal year, but it now expects that target can be achieved in the U.S. alone. The company sold about 200,000 units in the 2010 fiscal year.

While demand in the U.S. for rear-projection TVs has declined, large LCD TVs, which cover sets with screens measuring more than 50 inches, have become more popular there.

Because of its wide lineup of 18 over-60-inch TV models, Sharp’s sales channel increased to 9,400 stores as of October from 3,300 last December, Takahashi said. Rival manufacturers have fewer large models.

Japanese TV makers are aiming to strengthen the large TV business because it’s harder to turn a profit from midsize TVs, thanks to rapid price falls and increasing global competition with overseas makers.

As opposed to midsize TVs, which are relatively easy to make by simply assembling parts, producing large sets requires detailed technologies and adjustments, a strength of Japanese firms, Takahashi said.