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NPD: Wal-Mart Bridges ‘Blu’ Divide With Best Buy

18 Dec, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Spurred by aggressive hardware and software discounting, Wal-Mart has caught Best Buy to become one of the top two retailers of Blu-ray Disc movies, according to The NPD Group.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retail behemoth, which already sells the lowest-priced retail Blu-ray player (Magnavox) for $78, beginning Dec. 19 will offer select DVD and Blu-ray titles for less than $4 and $20, respectively.

As previously reported, Best Buy has aggressively sought to make Blu-ray players and movies a key retail driver this holiday season, including implementation of special Blu-ray displays, store signage and promotions in select stores.

Indeed, the Minneapolis-based No. 1 consumer electronics retailer, which reportedly has controlled 40% of Blu-ray Disc sales, earlier this month touted 40 Blu-ray titles online for $6.99, including Hellraiser, Children of the Corn, Henry Poole Is Here, Underworld and Sleepwalking.

That advantage has apparently diminished resulting in a leveled playing field, according to NPD analyst Russ Crupnick, who said Best Buy and Wal-Mart both have Blu-ray Disc market sales shares in the high 20% range, with the race “getting neck and neck.”

"Wal-Mart made a commitment to change Blu-ray from an enthusiast’s product to something the mainstream shopper would desire, and that strategy has been rewarded from a market share perspective" Crupnick said.

Earlier this month, Pali Capital analyst Stacey Widlitz believed Best Buy was attempting to counter competitive CE surges by Wal-Mart and Amazon by focusing on smaller-ticket purchases this holiday season, specifically Blu-ray movies and DVDs, and had rolled back prices 3.6% over the past two weeks.

“Considering Best Buy’s service and selection, we do not consider Wal-Mart a major threat this holiday season, in terms of pricing,” Widlitz wrote in a Dec. 1 note.

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