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One of the world’s leading consumer electronics industry research companies DisplaySearch has said that the “flat panel gold rush is almost over”. They claim that with recession fears mounting and credit tightening, sales of flat-panel televisions are expected to slow this year.

They claim that sales are still expected to grow, just at a slower rate than last year. Gagnon said that sales of flat panels, in dollars, are expected to rise 3 percent this year, compared with 4.6 percent in 2007. The biggest indicator that slower times are coming is the decline in unit sales in the US where penertration has reached 43% of the market. In Australia flat panel penertration is running at around 32% according to the lateste4st estimates from the Australian Bureau of Stastistics.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Gagnon claims that unit volume actually declined 2.9% to about 35 million units after years of big increases, he said. DisplaySearch is still tinkering with its 2008 forecast, but Mr. Gagnon expects dollar sales to return to a roughly 3% growth rate this year.

“Last year was really the banner year” for industry sales, said Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Colin McGranahan. But unit sales in the fourth quarter of 2007 fell 7% — a steeper decline than for the full year and “surprisingly bad,” he added.

About 56 million, or 42%, of U.S. households had at least one flat-screen TV as of the end of 2007, Mr. McGranahan said. Considering most people replace a TV about every five or seven years, industry watchers believe gains tied to TV sales going forward will be smaller for the retailers than in recent years, even if TVs remain important revenue sources for them.

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