Many Canadians have been admiring liquid crystal display (LCD) technology from afar. It has been the shining light of the monitor market since its emergence in the late 1990’s. These products have been touted as being sleek, slim and attractive, but too expensive for the average Canadian. As
a result, they have been mainly targeted at top-level executives.
That was then. This is now.
In 2001, the Canadian LCD market changed. The supply of LCD panels in Asia dramatically increased. With that, unit prices began to decline. The technology became increasingly accessible, which was good news for Canadian vendors and resellers alike. Accordingly, the Canadian market experienced a 381 per cent growth in unit shipments in 2001 over 2000 totals.
For a 15-inch LCD unit at the beginning of 2001, the suggested list price was approximately $1,000. By the end of the third quarter, the retail price tag was closer to $500. Finally, after years of waiting, the sleek computer displays were becoming financially viable. Users and purchasers could see past cathode ray tube (CRT) technology, putting sore eyes, headaches, and thoughts of CRT emissions and radiation behind. The advantages of LCD technology, including improved picture quality and increased efficiency of desk/office space could now be realized. Vendors stepped up marketing and promotional efforts as they attempted to grow their market share. Excitement mounted in the industry and growth escalated. Fifteen-inch LCD second quarter 2001 unit growth was 402 per cent over 2000 and 344 per cent in the third quarter.
Then the fourth quarter arrived. As Christmas flyers arrived in the mail, so did news of rising LCD prices. Demand exceeded supply, and as a result, panel manufacturers raised costs.
Some were forced to upgrade manufacturing facilities to accommodate the increased production levels, resulting in increased water consumption and environmental emissions. Manufacturing costs and retail prices were going up; but by how much and how soon? No one knew the answers.
The result? Some vendors were forced to raise prices, and others were forced to deal with a lack of inventory. Some vendors faced both obstacles. To avoid raising prices, some absorbed the rising costs. Canadian vendors watched their bottom lines crumble as they continued to campaign Asian manufacturing facilities to lower prices to the levels of third quarter 2001.
And now, nine months later at the beginning of the third quarter 2002, there is a reprieve. Following the lead established by Samsung Electronics Co, Ltd. and the encouragement of LG Electronics Co., Taiwanese manufacturers have announced that panel prices will be cut by two to four per cent. As profit margins are tight in this segment, this reprieve will help manufacturers and resellers build up their bottom line. The forecast for 2002 is for total LCD growth of 136 per cent over 2001. The initial announcement of price declines will contribute to the growth. The economic and social benefits of the LCD technology are plentiful, but not always realized. A declining price tag makes the sell, and the purchase, easier to justify.
Michelle Warren is an analyst with Evans Research Corp.