Consumer electronics retailers the world over are devoting more floor space and resources to media tablets to capitalize on the new market's high growth potential. In the United States, for example, retail giants Best Buy and Staples are now focused on offering in-store tablet centers where customers will be able to see and touch the latest models as well as make side by side product comparisons.
Best Buy told investors last month that the single biggest catalyst of the retailer's positive performance in the three months through the end of May was the rapid growth in tablet sales driven by Apple's iPad 2 roll out. Moreover, once Best Buy's new tablet push is completed in the weeks ahead, the company expects to have "the strongest assortment in the marketplace," said Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn.
New Models On The Way
Best Buy's tablet central effort first started rolling out in selected stores last May as a one-stop shop showcasing the features, connections and accessory opportunities for tablets. And now that Google has rolled out its tablet-specific Honeycomb version of Android, Dunn expects to see the number of tablets available in the marketplace to quickly ramp up over the summer months.
"We're excited about the variety of models we'll offer, complete with a wide range of features and price points that will drive consumer interest, as well as our business," Dunn said during last month's conference call with analysts.
Meanwhile, Staples is concentrating on becoming the tablet center for business professionals. The world's largest office products company currently offers tablet models from HP, Samsung, Motorola, Dell, RIM and Acer on display, and with new models on the way from Toshiba and HTC.
In recent months, Staples has been reallocating a portion of its marketing resources to build awareness of new technology offerings for mobile professionals, including media tablets. "While it's still too early to know the impact that tablets have had on our results this year, sales of tablets and accessories are off to a good start," Staples CEO told investors in May.
A Global Retail Push
Consumer electronics retail chains across Europe are also quickly moving to set up tablet centers of their own, noted Gartner Research Vice President Carolina Milanesi. "We have seen electronics stores stepping up in the tablet floor space both for hardware and accessories," Milanesi said Tuesday.
For example, Milanesi noted that the increased focus on media tablets is evident in the U.K. at PC World's retail stores, which currently offer iPad 2 as well as a dozen other brand name models from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, HTC, Motorola, Research In Motion and Samsung. Moreover, the tablet mania among retailers is also evident at European "telecoms stores such as Carphonewarehouse and Operators stores," Milanesi added.
Elsewhere overseas, however, brand-name tablet makers are facing rising competition from so-called "whitebox" tablet makers. According to DisplaySearch, nearly 20 percent of all media tablet sales in the first quarter of 2011 were non-brand-name models, with China alone accounting for 44 percent of all whitebox tablet shipments worldwide.
Whitebox tablet makers are able to cut their manufacturing costs by using panels featuring slightly lower quality levels, such as lower brightness, that the major brands refrain from using. Still, DisplaySearch Senior Analyst Richard Shim noted that these models remain appealing to value conscious buyers shopping based on price.
"Price is a significant influence on any consumer product, and tablets currently carry a healthy premium on the cost of the hardware components," Shim said.