Buyers wrapped up the last of billions of dollars in high-tech deals at the winter Consumer Electronics Show, seemingly undaunted by the recession and the Middle East crisis.
Exhibitors were generally upbeat, reporting strong sales of merchandise that will find its way to the nation's store shelves this spring and summer.The show, and a summer show in Chicago, generally attract one-third each of the industry's $33 billion in annual sales of gadgets and electronic hardware. Some 70,000 exhibitors, buyers and retailers attended the four-day show that ended Sunday.
"Great - that's the only word I can say," CES spokeswoman Cynthia Upson said. "I've been out on the floor and I'm seeing nothing but a lot of excitement out there. I understand a lot of business is being done. Everyone seems very positive."
Products ranging from sing-along Karaoke machines to a dual-deck VCR and the latest in video games were on display for the throngs that crowded a 20-acre display area that filled the Las Vegas Convention Center and several hotels.
"This year is even better than last," said Philip Rubin, whose P&H Company Inc. of Pompano Beach, Fla., was selling home video security systems. "Everyone seems optimistic and is buying. But, of course, this is Las Vegas and that may not be reality."
The Electronic Industries Association, the industry trade group, estimates sales will be up 3.3 percent in 1991, keyed by the sale of more than 21 million color television sets.
"The recession hasn't had that much of an impact," Upson said. "The buyers came in with a good attitude after coming off a fairly good Christmas season, compared with what they were anticipating. This attitude carried over to the orders the buyers are placing."
As usual, the show drew an international collection of merchants and manufacturers. At some exhibits, pointing and gesturing were the commonly accepted methods of communication.
Japanese and Korean companies dominated the main exhibit areas, with booths by Pioneer, Toshiba, Hitachi and Gold Star having the most lavish displays. U.S. companies were mostly relegated to the smaller booths where accessories and other products were sold.
Some exhibitors said buyers were more price-conscious this year, frustrating attempts by several manufacturers to raise prices for bottom-line VCRs that had been widely discounted over the past year.
"People are looking for deals," said David Shoshan, president of D&S Distributors, a California company that sells manufacturer closeouts and overstocks. "We do well at all the shows, but this year we've done real well."
Unlike previous shows, which unveiled revolutionary new products such as CD players and 8mm camcorders, this year's show featured mostly variations of existing technologies.
Car stereos and alarm systems were plentiful, and one entire exhibit hall was devoted to video games by Nintendo and other manufacturers.
Telephones that allow a user to see who is calling before picking up the phone were heavily promoted, and television sets got bigger while stereo components got smaller.
One company, HTS Inc., introduced a system that links VCRs, satellite systems or cable to televisions without the use of wires, while Fun Products pushed a telephone that, at the push of a button, gives a user any one of 16 different sound effects ranging from a barking dog to a quacking duck.