Gateway to expand consumer electronics line

Gateway shocked the consumer electronics industry last November when it introduced a 42-inch plasma television for around $3,000 — hundreds of dollars below its closest competitors.

The new gadgets and gizmos will include 12 to 15 televisions and probably digital cameras and camcorders, said Ted Waitt, chairman and chief executive of Poway-based Gateway. The new TVs will be ultra-slim plasma or liquid crystal displays, rear-projection TVs or sets that combine DVD and home theater systems.

All of the TVs will be Gateway brand, but some of the other products may come from other manufacturers.

Gateway declined to offer specifics on pricing other than to say that they will range from an eye-popping 50 percent below the market average to as high as 5 percent above the market average.

The company also declined to say how much it would cost to remodel its stores by the end of this year. About 100 stores will be significantly changed and 80 will get a lighter facelift. In five stores, Gateway will test a new design that more prominently displays electronics.

The campaign is Gateway’s latest effort to snap its two-year slide. The company has closed 80 stores this year and shed 1,900 of its 11,500 employees. In the last two years, the company has eliminated 10,000 jobs and posted steep losses.

The ponytailed Waitt, 40, trotted on stage in blue jeans and a blazer before securities analysts gathered at a hotel in San Diego’s posh La Jolla district and tried to convince investors that Gateway was about to turn the corner.

“I think they’ve been serially restructuring,” said Steve Baker, an analyst at NPDTechworld, an industry consulting firm in Port Washington, N.Y.

Still, Baker said, the move makes sense. Gateway has the advantage of being first the computer maker to make a major push into the consumer electronics market.

The campaign may mark one of the boldest efforts by a U.S. firm to regain some of America’s former leadership in consumer electronics after decades of domination by Asian manufacturers.

The Walt Disney Co. said this week that it is extending its consumer electronics line to include a television, DVD player and other products, but its offerings are on the inexpensive end of the market. Disney’s prices will range from $30 to $120.

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