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Bundles tempt off-season consumers


Now that summer is here and people have turned their interests toward vacation and the outdoors, indoor pursuits like building a home theater system are experiencing a seasonal drop in importance. That’s why more retailers are working hard to make them an attractive buy.

Retailers like Best Buy, Circuit City and Wal-Mart are using in-store merchandising to make it easier for consumers to build home theaters with displays with user-friendly instructions and completely packaged home theater combos.

Wal-Mart is taking a basic approach with signs near its high-definition TVs, recommending the best type and size TV for various areas of the house. And, more importantly, it lists the cables and wall mounts consumers will need to set up an HDTV on their own. Costco takes the approach one step further by offering home delivery and installation of plasma and LCD TVs, along with a service center that offers free advice over the phone.

Best Buy has more than a half-dozen displays in stores that showcase high-definition TVs along with speaker systems and high-definition DVD players. The displays tend to be grouped by manufacturer, with one display showcasing a Sony high-definition TV, Blu-ray DVD player and home theater system.

Circuit City takes a similar approach with one main display showcasing a $399 Samsung Blu-ray player, a $499 sound system and a 37-inch Samsung LCD TV for $1,049.

The packaging strategy has become more common now that the high-definition DVD format war is over and retailers can focus on Blu-ray. And as the installed base of high-definition TVs in U.S. households continues to soar by more than 1 million per month, retailers are making Blu-ray players the new “must-have” product for home theater as they push a format that’s been slow to catch on.

“I think you’ll see more of this bundling as the year goes on,” said NPD Group analyst Ross Rubin.

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