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CEA: Look for ‘Good’ CE Holiday Sales, with Tablets Dominant

November 13, 2012 By Nancy Klosek
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Three of four holiday gift-givers this year, as last, plan to include at least one tech product somewhere on their shopping lists – and they will have a Black Friday period to shop in that will start earlier and last longer than ever, in the estimation of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

October sales were relatively soft, said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and senior director of research, at a press briefing in New York City Monday night, but with the uncertainties of the election resolved, CEA projects a “good” holiday sales season where overall retail sales should better 2011’s results by about 3.4 percent. 

He said that technology and appliance retailers’ CE sales should grow roughly 2.2 percent, and online CE holiday sales were estimated to end the year 14 percent higher than for that period in 2011.

Not surprisingly, the category expected to dominate CE Q4 sales is tablets, which should account for 32 million unit sales – a 112 percent growth over 2011. 

“What do consumers want? Of those we asked, 8.3 percent said tablets – light years ahead of money (4.8 percent) and peace and happiness (4.5 percent),” noted CEA director of industry analysis Steve Koenig

DuBravac noted that 31 percent of industry revenues are tied up in the tablet and smartphone categories combined. About 108 million smartphones are expected to ship in the U.S. this year; CEA also conservatively estimates that 70 million tablets will ship for the year in total, with the 100-million-unit mark on course to be eclipsed in 2013.

Other bright spots for the holidays include soundbars, expected to increase in unit sales by 54 percent over 2011, headphones (estimated 9.8 percent increase), and DSLR cameras (estimated 13 percent sales increase). TV sales should remain virtually flat, and large unit sales decreases will likely be felt in the camcorder category. 

In the audio category, where 38 percent of U.S. adults say they will spend money in Q4, one of the most robust sub-categories is wireless multi-room A/V, in which 15 percent of adults say they plan to invest dollars.

In gaming, where 26 percent of U.S. adults will spend money during the 2012 holidays, both portable game consoles and game consoles are expected to experience sales drops, with mobile devices having a cannibalizing effect on that hardware.

Around 39 percent of adults intend to spend on video products, with 25 percent saying Blu-ray/DVD players will be their choice, and 20 percent saying TV will be. 

Digital imaging is a category of interest to 26 percent of adults responding to the survey, with DSLR cameras of interest to 10 percent of that total, camcorders of interest to 11 percent and action cameras, of interest to seven percent. Point-and-shoot cameras are on the decline as a significant part of the digital imaging category, expected to draw the dollars of just 11 percent of respondents in the digital imaging market– down from 2011’s 15 percent.

As for Black Friday, CEA estimates that around 125 TV models will be promoted across the country, said DuBravac. Thirteen percent of U.S. households are planning to shop before Thanksgiving and 26 percent on or after the holiday, the CEA projects. A few major retailers are moving their Black Friday sales starts to earlier on Thanksgiving evening, with some planning starts as early as 8 p.m., and they are timing their “deal” releases for various points throughout the evening and into the next the day.

Other Black Friday strategizing by dealers will likely include extensive price-matching, offering layaway services, and assuring in-stock status for all deals – and barring that, the issuance of “rain checks” that guarantee stock availability before the holiday. Cyber Monday sales are also expected to occur widely as a traffic-driving method. And some dealers, including Walmart, said DuBravac, are planning to go a step beyond product bundling to bundle hot products, such as Apple’s iPad2, with gift cards intended to convey the perception of a discount but done to ensure customers come back into the store to redeem the cards.


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