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Sharp's supermarket labels are LCDs

Electronic tags can hold extra information, such as sell-by-dates

Who'd have thought the market for digital supermarket-shelf price tags could be worth £42 million a year? Apparently, Sharp does.

You know those little supermarket price tags that are designed to fall off the end of the shelf just as you reach for that loaf of bread? Well, Sharp in Japan has come up with a far more expensive version that is destined to be trampled underfoot too.

The Fuji Sankei Business paper is reporting that Sharp's new electronic price tags are destined to replace traditional printed markers with LCD displays starting right about now. In fact, Sharp is so confident it predicts sales of the tags to be worth JPY10 billion (£42 million) in the next financial year.

The advantage being touted is twofold - shoppers get extra information, such as sell-by-dates and more details about products, and shops find it simple to change prices from a central computer, rather than having to do so by hand. Also, the displays consume power only when being changed, allowing their internal batteries to last five years.

Naturally, the tags don't come cheap - the 2-inch model will cost shops JPY2,000 (£8.40) each and the 3-inch tag costs JPY2,300 (£9.70). Maybe that's why Sharp's so confident of its bottom line. J. Mark Lytle