Forget the iPad: Japanese Buy TVs

Earlier this year, Japanese consumers camped outside stores to buy the latest in high technology: Apple Inc.’s iPad and new iPhone 4. Now they are rushing to buy something a little more traditional: television sets.

In fact, in the TV departments of the country’s major electronics stores, every day is almost as busy as the iPhone launch day, if recent store visits in the capital are anything to go by. Last week – Nov. 8 -14 — domestic flat-panel TV sales soared sixfold from the same period last year, according to market research firm GfK. In that week alone, stores sold more TVs than they did in all of November last year.

So why are the Japanese buying TVs like they’ve never seen TVs before? A new tech feature? A new society trend of some kind?

The reason is something a lot more traditional: bargain-hunting. TVs are selling like hot cakes now because the government is soon to scale back a subsidy program that offers incentive points for buying energy-efficient TVs, refrigerators and air conditioners. Under this program, consumers are basically getting an equivalent of a substantial discount on their purchases, because they can trade the so-called “eco-points” for other goods and services.

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