The UK’s large-format display (LFD) market has seen propitious times, with growth rates injecting life into the ailing flat-screen category.
The greatest growth has been in the 46in to 55in categories, fanned by super-narrow bezels that facilitate videowall construction, and these sizes grew 63 per cent year on year, representing half of the total shipments in the first half of 2012. Average selling prices for both screen sizes going through distribution, however, shrank six per cent in the first half, compared with the same six months last year.
This drop is minimal but the two leading vendors, Samsung and NEC, have restricted their products to certain price bands recently, with maximum and minimum price points varying by up to 60 per cent.
Demand this year has been seen from major events such as the jubilee and the Olympics. Digital signage, often using LFDs, played a key role in advertising and communications for both.
New, improved technology has also boosted sales. LFD shipments to western Europe saw 12 per cent growth in the first half, compared with the same period in 2011. The UK leads, outperforming the western European average to expand 22 per cent year on year in the first six months.
Videowall projects have multiplied noticeably in the past year and super-narrow bezel displays have been the principal technology used. Samsung, NEC and Sharp have seized the opportunity to showcase their portfolios, pushing them into verticals such as retail, corporate, broadcast and control room. Presently, the price point is rising for such super-narrow bezel displays -- although as the market grows we expect to see competition squeeze vendor margins.
The transition to LED backlighting also continues. LED promises reduced power consumption in thinner, brighter displays. Brighter displays are particularly important for well-lit environments, such as outdoors. Our distribution data results from August show that LEDs have penetrated nearly half the UK market, up from 20 per cent in January.
Average selling prices for LEDs have fallen 25 per cent since the start of the year, narrowing the price gap with the older cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) technology to nearly 10 per cent by August. Digital advertising, way finding and drive-through menu boards are all set to thrive.
Vendors are vying to sell touchscreen LFDs to the corporate and education sectors, where interactive projectors and whiteboards rule. In the first half of 2012 we saw a 35 per cent increase year on year in touchscreen-capable LFDs passing through distribution. This is set to continue as more mobile apps appear that interact with.
Samsung and NEC should continue to dominate, with latest shipment figures suggesting the duo has some 75 per cent of the market. Digital signage growth in retail, a project-based market encouraging teamwork and strong partnerships, will likely be their cash cow.
Cheaper consumer products, however, are increasingly showing up in commercial installations.
End users are becoming reluctant to pay a premium for a pro -grade display - a development that could well hinder the continued growth of pro-LFD.
In response, vendors and integrators have tried to educate potential clients about the advantages of professional displays compared with consumer-grade displays, focusing on features such as anti-image retention, lockouts, and brightness.
However, where videowall, interactive touch capability and extra-large format is important, professional displays are outperforming consumer counterparts. Here the price point disadvantage can be sidestepped.
My research suggests that the double-digit growth we have seen so far this year for LFDs is set to continue. A variety of price points will be applied, subject to the application and end-market needs. Flat-screen vendors will see the value in focusing on higher-margin LFDs rather than the challenges in the TV and monitor markets.
Lachlan Welsh is displays analyst at Context
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