Giant Chinese television and consumer electronics manufacturer TCL achieved the No. 2 TV unit sales position in the United States for the first time in September, beating out both U.S.-based Vizio and South Korea-based LG, which had been jockeying for the rank over the past several years.

A TCL spokesman confirmed the data compiled by NPD’s Weekly U.S. television sell-through tracking report from its panel of top retail chains that account for the bulk of the television sell-through activity in the country. The numbers showed TCL-branded televisions moved sufficient volume at cash registers and e-commerce portals throughout the month of September 2017 to leap frog both LG and Vizio in the all-important unit sales to consumers category.

TCL introduced this summer its latest lines of smart TVs powered by the Roku TV operating system, including the first models to support 4K Ultra HD with Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR), but its record-achieving market share performance was determined more by the high value price point the brand was offering mainstream TV purchasers through top retail accounts including Walmart and recent-addition Best Buy.

Read more about TCL’s move into the top 3 U.S. television brands after the jump:

According to a TCL spokesman, the company was No. 2 in TV sell-through in NPD’s weekly reporting for the last week of August straight through September 30th with 476,267 units sold to consumers.

“Additionally, we are the No. 2 brand in [4K Ultra HDTV] for that same period,” the TCL spokesman pointed out.

The top-ranked television brand in the period continued to be Samsung with 553,735 units sold over the five weeks, according to NPD data shared with us. Vizio ranked third with 406,885 units sold and LG was fourth with 289,034 units sold to consumers. Element, another brand like TCL that is sold heavily through discount chains, ranked fifth. This summer, Element began selling smart TVs with Amazon’s Fire TV platform built-in through such major retail accounts as Amazon, which is now going toe-to-toe with Roku in the integrated smart TV OS space.

Representatives from NPD did not return repeated requests for comment on the numbers, however, Deirdre Kennedy, U.S. television retail placement analyst with market research firm gap intelligence told HD Guru, “Two major things happened for TCL this summer–TCL TVs entered Best Buy brick-and-mortar stores in late July and TCL increased placement counts at Walmart (+67 percent to 5 placements). Also TCL at was up 33 percent to 12 placements in late July.”

gap intelligence: Summer TV retail placement activity by brand

Comparatively, Kennedy also observed that TCL’s placements were down 14 percent at Amazon, down 14 percent at Target brick-and-mortar, and down 17 percent at over that same period.

Paul Gagnon, IHS Markit director of TV market analysis, said his company’s market research showed TCL began to show aggressive growth prior to September’s achievement.

“We observed some significant shipment share growth in the first half of the year from TCL,” Gagnon told HD Guru. “TCL’s [shipment to dealer] share jumped to No. 3 in Q1 at 12.9 percent, and fell a bit in Q2 to No. 4 at 10.5 percent. Both of these share figures are substantially higher from previous years and we see some expansion of brick and mortar SKU placements as a driver of this.”

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Gap’s Kennedy said, “My guess is that the placements in Best Buy stores coupled with the increased presence at Walmart had a huge effect on sales. In addition, TCL advertised at Best Buy for the first time on July 30th with a quarter-page ad for three different models. The Best Buy ads were TCL’s only ad placements for the month of July and I have no doubt that the ad placements helped lift sales. TCL has had products on ad at Best Buy twice more since that time (August 20th and September 17th), so they seem to be meeting Best Buy’s minimum advertising requirements. Over the past three months, TCL also placed ads at Target (eight ads) and Walmart (two ads).”

Kennedy predicted that “entering Best Buy should help lift sales, as will the positive reviews of [TCL’s] P-Series models. At the end of the day, price is still one of the major factors consumers use when making their TV purchasing decisions, and TCL is well positioned to take advantage of its value prices. It will be interesting to see how Vizio fares against TCL because it hasn’t had to compete directly against TCL at Best Buy before, and Vizio has been able to enjoy sales growth at BB since entering the chain in late 2013. I would imagine that Vizio (and Samsung, LG, and Sony as well) will make some defensive moves to counter the TCL effect.”


By Greg Tarr


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