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CEA Stats: A Challenging First Half for Tech Spending

Tablets, smartphones, are biggest growth engines

June 26, 2012 By Nancy Klosek
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Consumer spending on technology for 2012’s first half is paralleling slower overall consumer spending, with the tablet and smartphone categories helping to keep this year’s figures at least on a par with those of 2011.

That was one of the findings presented by Consumer Electronics Association chief economist and senior director of research Shawn DuBravac during the CEA Research Summit Mid-Year Update, a component of this week’s New York City-held CE Week event (June 25-29).

He said that last year, overall nominal spending was up eight percent, but that a similar boost would be “difficult to match in 2012. Tablets and smartphones were the primary drivers last year for growth,” and without them in the statistical picture, nominal spending would have been down three percent in 2011. He said that were it not for robust sales in those two categories, the same low single-digit declines could be realized for 2012.

DuBravac added that 2012 smartphone sales are expected to surpass all computing devices, inclusive of tablets.

He said within the last six months, the share of durable goods dollars consumers were allocating to tech had declined slightly to 16 percent from 17 percent for the same period last year, partially due to pent-up demand for other durable purchases like cars and furniture.

There are a few bright spots in the numbers, however. “Sentiment indicators” – data CEA has collected that is meant to reflect overall consumer mood about technology – moved up slightly for June.  “In the last two months, gas and oil prices have been a little lower, and that improves sentiment indices – a positive for tech spending,” DuBravac said.

He did say that 2012 figures were certain to be influenced by periods of geopolitical volatility in Europe and elsewhere, which could put downward pressure on sentiment and on buyers’ purchasing appetites. However, he said, “consumers are retrenching,” and are slightly more willing to take on credit.

He gave a lightning round view, year-to-date (YTD), of a few key CE categories.

Video unit volume, down 14 percent in 2011, is tracking similarly this year, while revenues, down about 14 percent YTD in 2011, are down considerably less: 7.6 percent this year, due to slight pricing increases. In fact, DuBravac noted, for the first time, after four years of strong double-digit declines, average flat-panel TV prices are up: $540 in 2012 over $515 last year.

The general flat-panel TV category, which includes both LCD and plasma sets, down 2.3 percent in units in 2011, is flat YTD.  Plasma sales volume is slowing with almost no average selling price declines. LCD sets’ unit volume, however, is up 26.8 percent versus 25.9 percent YTD in 2011.



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