- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2005

Carl Floyd was browsing the Pentagon City Best Buy’s home theater department Thursday afternoon in search of a new television to put in his bedroom.

He said he wanted something between 27 and 32 inches; he has a 46-inch Sony high-definition flat-screen television, which he bought 1 years ago for $1,600.

Mr. Floyd, a security officer from the District, said watching sporting events — such as tomorrow’s Super Bowl — on a large screen with high-definition technology enhances the experience.

“It’s a whole lot better than watching it on regular TV,” the 52-year-old said. “It’s just a lot clearer. It makes it seem like you’re right at the event.”

Andre Williams also was browsing at the store, comparing television prices in the home theater department.

Mr. Williams, 43, of Upper Marlboro, paid $1,400 last week for his second big-screen television — a 46-inch Toshiba flat-screen, high-definition television. He plans to exchange the television for the same one that recently went on sale.

Many electronic stores have been offering major discounts on televisions in the days leading up to tomorrow’s National Football League championship game, which will be broadcast in high definition.

However, Mr. Williams says the game was not what inspired him to make the purchase.

“I might watch it, I might not watch it, but that was not a deciding factor,” said Mr. Williams, a manager at the Federal Aviation Administration.

The desire to see the Super Bowl game up close, as well as discounts and no-interest financing options, are prompting customers to shell out big money on big televisions, said salesmen at area electronic stores.

Consumers this year were expected to purchase 1.4 million televisions before the Super Bowl, according to a recent survey conducted by the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, a division of the National Retail Federation.

Best Buy has put many of its televisions on sale and is offering no-interest financing. The store also is guaranteeing delivery of all televisions purchased before 7 p.m. today before the 6:30 kick-off tomorrow.

Ryan Seymour, sales manager of the Pentagon City Best Buy, said customers have been more aggressive about purchasing big-screen and high-definition televisions in the past few weeks.

“Normally they would stop and browse,” Mr. Seymour said. “People are making their minds up with haste.”

He said some customers have bought entire television displays, which include speakers and a stand and can cost as much as $7,000.

The Best Buy in Rockville has seen a larger-than-usual increase in big-screen television sales, said Chris Turner, a home theater supervisor at the store. Higher television sales are typical for this time of year, he said, but “this year, it’s been really significant.”

“I would say three-quarters of the customers are buying [televisions] because of the Super Bowl,” he said.

Big-screen plasma televisions have been a big seller. The store recently has been selling six to eight big-screen plasma screens daily, Mr. Turner said. They cost anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000 each.

Big-screen television sales also are up at Circuit City in Wheaton, said John Swiss, sales manager of the store’s television department. The store sold about 90 big-screen projection-monitor televisions last month, a significant increase from the 60 to 70 it sells other months, he said.

In the first two days of February, the store had sold five plasma-screen televisions, compared with the 14 the store sold last month, Mr. Swiss said.

The store’s weekly advertising leaflet displays televisions showing a football game, and offers discounts, no-interest financing and guaranteed delivery “before the big game.”

Barry Maizel and his wife bought their second big-screen television last week. Once the couple made the decision to purchase the television — a 52-inch Mitsubishi flat-screen, high-definition television that cost $3,800 — they decided to get it before Super Bowl Sunday.

The couple has a 55-inch Mitsubishi flat-screen high-definition television, which they purchased four years ago.

“It’s a totally frugal-less move,” said Mr. Maizel, 49, an information technology consultant from Olney. He and his wife used gift money they had received to buy the television.

Wal-Mart in Alexandria also is experiencing a “huge increase” in sales of big-screen TVs, said Rashid Reed, a sales associate in the electronics department. The most expensive television the store sells is a 53-inch Panasonic high-definition, flat-screen, priced at $1,495, he said. On Wednesday, the store had only one of those televisions in stock — it usually has six or seven, he said.

“It’s like Christmastime all over again,” Mr. Reed said.

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