Consumers skewed their consumer electronics (CE) shopping to the first few weeks of the 2012 holiday season, according to global information company The NPD Group. U.S. consumer electronics sales* were strongest at the beginning of the holiday season and declined through the remainder of the five week holiday period (November 18 December 22, 2012) according to NPDs Weekly Tracking Service**.
Forty-six percent of sales took place in the first two weeks, the highest share in the past four years, while the last three weeks of sales accounted for 54 percent of sales. Overall sales declined 7 percent with consumers spending $13.7 billion dollars. Sales for the first two weeks declined 3.7 percent over 2011 while the last three weeks fell more than 11 percent.
“For the third consecutive year sales trends worsened in the later part of the holiday season,” says Stephen Baker, vice president, industry analysis at NPD. “The hyped-up promotion of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and now Thanksgiving Day has proven remarkably effective in moving sales into the early part of the holiday season. Trends like online shopping and self-gifting have intensified the focus on the more event -driven early part of the holiday season.”
Most categories struggled, as they’ve done all year but sales of notebook computers and flat-panel TVs both exceeded $2 billion in total dollars sales, while no other single segment accounted for over $1 billion in revenue.
Despite much hype and hope regarding the Windows 8 launch, Microsoft’s new operating system did little to boost holiday sales or improve a year-long Windows notebook sales decline. Windows notebook holiday unit sales dropped 11 percent, on par with Black Friday, and similar to the yearly trend, but revenue trends weakened since Black Friday to end the holiday period down 10.5 percent. Average Selling Prices (ASPs) rose only $2 to $420. Touchscreen notebooks accounted for 4.5 percent of Windows 8 sales with ASPs around $700. Sales of Windows notebooks under $500 fell by 16 percent while notebooks priced above $500 increased 4 percent. Apple Macbook sales dropped 6 percent while their ASPs rose almost $100 to $1419 – presumably thanks to introduction of new MacBook Pros with Retina displays in June and October.
Overall flat-panel TV units declined slightly by 1.5 percent and average selling prices (ASP) dropped more than 8 percent to a record-low $364. Large screen TVs continued their impressive growth and helped drive the category, but much of it at the expense of the once dominant 40-49-inch segment. Flat-panel displays, 50-inches and greater, experienced 46 percent unit growth and 19 percent revenue growth, while 40-49-inch flat-panel TVs dropped 36 percent in revenue and 29 percent in units. Strong demand for 32-inch and 39-inch displays drove volume for the under 40-inch segment which accounted for 64 percent of all units sold. Sales of TVs under 30-inches, however, declined 24 percent.
“Consumer electronics remain trapped in a weak product cycle,” says Mr. Baker. “Despite undeniable success in segments like soundbars, headphones with microphones, interchangeable lens cameras, cellular accessories and tablets, the inability of the CE market to find substantial new pockets of revenue looms menacingly over the industrys future.”
*Consumer electronics excludes: Amazon Kindle products, iPad, Surface, mobile phones, and video games.
** NPD’s weekly POS information is derived from a subset panel of retailers that also contribute to NPD’s projected monthly POS panel.