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Toshiba notebooks slip again

A survey shows Compaq now leads in retail shelf space, an important measure of potential product sales as well as the success of dealer programs and incentives.

In another indication that Toshiba has lost its lead in the notebook market, a new survey shows Compaq leading in retail shelf space.

Toshiba, first in the same survey a year ago, is now in second place.

The survey, by PC-industry research firm Associated Research Services (ARS), Notebook PC market share averages the number of notebook units found in computer superstores, consumer electronics stores, and office superstores. The stores surveyed in the study were Best Buy, Circuit City, Computer City, CompUSA, OfficeMax, and Office Depot.

Shelf space is a measure of potential, rather than actual, sales, according to ARS analyst Phil Magney. Shelf space numbers reflect not only the quality of the product, but the success of dealer programs and incentives that manufacturers provide.

"Shelf space is a precursor to what could happen," said Magney. "Shelf space is worth money and it's a finite thing. Who gets on that shelf is who is in a position to benefit."

For October, Compaq had an average of 3.16 units per store or 32 percent, compared to Toshiba's 2.14 units, or 22 percent. In October of last year, Toshiba led the pack with 2.1 units per store, or 25.9 percent, with Compaq coming in seventh place with 0.46 units, or 5.7 percent.

Toshiba, once dominant in the notebook space, has stumbled in the past year Average retail notebook shelf space as competitors have proliferated and the company has failed to keep up in terms of both product innovation and price. (See related story) Though Toshiba slipped only marginally in shelf space, its overall domestic retail market share fell more than 7 percent, according to PC Data, from 35 percent to 25 percent.

Retail makes up a significant minority proportion of overall notebook sales, about 15 percent by PC Data estimates.