By Matthew Henry

SYDNEY: Retail buying in the flat panel TV category dived nearly 20 per cent in March, according to industry sell-in figures, offering further proof that interest rates have finally hit consumer spending.

Industry data obtained by for March shows the number of plasmas sold into retail dropped 16.1 per cent from February levels, while LCD unit sales were also down to the tune of 12.9 per cent.

Both technologies combined shed nearly 20 per cent in sales value for the month compared to February 2008.

Despite the drop, LCD TV, which grew 66 per cent in market value last year, was still well above March 2007 levels.

But proof that the figures are not just indicative of a fall-off after strong trading in February is evident in plasma sales.

The value of plasma sales into retail was 15.5 per cent below its March 2007 value despite the plasma market growing overall in 2008.

One flat panel TV industry insider, who wished to remain anonymous, labeled the figures “quite an alarming drop” and said they provided proof that successive interest rate rises were finally curbing consumer spending.

The figures also square with recent data from Westpac indicating consumer confidence is at a 15-year low and consumers are less inclined to be investing in major household items.