boom boxes

Small, inexpensive boom box audio equipment is still selling well despite more expensive compact disc (CD) boom boxes. Owning an inexpensive boom box enables the consumer to take the device outside and leave the CD machine at home. The budget-priced products are also good as a child’s first audio machine. Some manufacturers have marketed brightly colored products for this market. These inexpensive machines cost $29-$39 while the CD machines cost approximately $50.

Always having a Good Market for the Products

Despite the popularity of the CD-based boom box, retailers are finding there is still a market for the entry-level analog tuner-cassette player-type among consumers.

According to John Messina, an electronics buyer for Tops Appliance City, the entry-level boom box has carved out a very distinct niche for itself.

“The whole boom box business has shifted to two arenas, the entry-level product and CD product and there are a lot of [entry-level] units being sold,” he said. At Kmart, units hitting price points between $29 and $39 are doing very well, said Tom Hook, one of the chain’s audio buyers. He said customers are using these devices for utilitarian purposes and not as their main source of mobile entertainment.

The Perfect Choice with an Inexpensive Portable Stereo

Messina agreed saying he believed many people are buying these budget-priced units either as a second boom box that can be taken out without worrying about it being damaged, while saving the more expensive, CD-equipped unit for use around the home. For the same reason an inexpensive portable stereo is perfect as a child’s first stereo, he said.

Currently, a wide variety of manufacturers are targeting the preteen market by producing durable, brightly colored boxes designed to catch the eye as well as be affordable. Sony Corp. has even hit the market with its My First Sony products, targeted at younger children.

  • The Low-Price Portable Stereo Category

Stereo Boombox

Radio Shack has a dedicated line of simple, easy to operate “kiddie boom boxes” selling in the $35 range, said Rick Borinstein, Radio Shack’s vice president of merchandise marketing. He said this category has helped Radio Shack become very successful in the low-price portable stereo category because it increases the number of potential customers.

“We put a special emphasis on this [the boom-box] area,” said Borinstein, adding the company uses a double-focus approach in its marketing, the children’s products and those for older customers.

Radio Shack further subdivides its marketing approach enabling it to hit many price points. For example Radio Shack has four basic configurations of boom boxes; single cassette and dual cassette units either with or without CD capability.

The market for the very low-priced boom box is definitely still there, said another retailer, mainly because it is still the most inexpensive way to carry music around. He added that despite the drop in the price of CD boom boxes he does not foresee the disappearance of the diminutive box with only a few features.

  • More Expensive Boom Boxes

Manufacturers ranging from the St. Louis, Mo.-based Gran Prix Electronics to Aiwa America Inc. are setting their sights on this segment of the market. Gran Prix has several CD models, some with breakaway speakers, with suggested prices below $50.

Aiwa has even added a wireless remote control to models in this price range, giving customers a feature normally found on more expensive boom boxes.

  • The Intermediate Priced Versions

However, several retailers said the success of the both the budget-priced box and high-end CD type has been made at the expense of the intermediate priced unit.

These models are usually equipped with dual tape wells and Hooks said sales of these items are now flat and he expects that in about a year there will be a large downturn in this area. With prices sitting at $99 for a good quality, yet entry-level CD player that also includes a tape deck, people are opting to buy these products instead of spending the same amount and getting fewer features. Radio Shack said it still does a fair business with dual deck types, said Borinstein.

The Dropping Trend of Low CD Boom Box Prices

Hooks added that customers have not even seen how low CD boom box prices might still drop. Kmart already has one brand at $88 and somewhere down the road he predicted well-known name brand units could be at $79.

Borinstein said he was not certain in where this CD category will eventuate, “but at this time if your product is not in the $100 range it cannot compete.”

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