This back-to-college season, Target will feature products such
as extra-long twin sheets with media pockets to let students easily
store iPads or phones after watching video from bed. The
Minneapolis-based retailer is also selling a bedside stand designed
to prop up a tablet and a laptop tray for viewing to replace the TV
stands of yesterday.
"Our guests are looking for products that play into that dual
purpose -- that have the ability to be stylish but also be
functional," said a Target spokesman. "They're looking for
something that does a lot of different things."
U.S. sales of TV sets during the back-to-school period between
June and September have fallen 9% to $4.1 billion in the last three
years alone, according to market research firm NPD Group.
Large-screen TVs comprise much of the ongoing sales, noted Stephen
Baker, VP-industry analysis at NPD.
"Sales of smaller-size TVs are declining because people aren't
replacing the ones they have with televisions, they're replacing
them with mobile devices," Mr. Baker said.
Of course, a few TVs do remain in circulation at college -- but
they're not being used to connect to cable in the traditional way.
Many students use Microsoft-owned Xbox or other gaming devices to
stream shows via their individual platforms.
And more digital entertainment players are entering the
already-crowded market. This spring, Fullscreen, the popular
multichannel YouTube network owned by AT&T and the Chernin
Group, is introducing an ad-free streaming service, competing with
established platforms like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and Amazon.
College students' "lack of TV sets is not a lack of interest in
television," said Mr. Cole. "They are more interested in television
than any generation we have seen, they are just not watching on
Meanwhile, electronics retailers are struggling to entice
younger shoppers into brick-and-mortar stores for any TV-watching
devices. As many small-ticket items, like CDs, DVDs and video
games, which used to drive repeat store visits, lose relevance with
consumers in favor of more popular digital mediums, stores are
forced to engage in price wars online with Amazon.
"The high-frequency purchases are gone," said Mr. Britton. "Now
it's just a hardware purchase, and who wants to lug it home from
the store?" he said, noting that store visits are increasingly for
"showrooming" -- to pick out a product and then buy online for a
The new generation is typically more price dependent than brand
loyal, Mr. Britton added. That's a dilemma for electronics
Best Buy, which this month expanded a same-day delivery service
to better compete with Amazon, declined to comment for this
Last month, GameStop reported that it had cut its video game
retail fleet by 125 outposts as buying shifted online. The
1,036-unit retailer said a focus for growth is mobile devices,
including smartphones. To reach millennials, GameStop, which has
found that more than 60% of customers with PlayStation 4 and Xbox
One systems use the devices to stream, has been honing its
six-year-old loyalty program, PowerUp Rewards. The Grapevine,
Texas-based company is also shifting some advertising dollars to
YouTube and Twitch.
"Advertising on these platforms lets us reach tech-savvy
millennials and gamers in a context that's relevant for our gaming
message," said Eric Oria, senior director of marketing