As any young apartment dweller can attest, the basic elements of a new life on your own consist mostly of four things: a bed, couch, television and boomin’ system. In fact, part of the allure of moving away from one’s parents to a dorm, apartment or house is having control over the home theater setup – which includes a say in what music gets played and determining for yourself how loud is in fact “too loud.” By that measure, home audio products have always been an essential component of new adulthood. But today, young consumers, particularly those 34 and under, account for a larger share of home audio spending than they did just two years ago. What’s behind this change in buyer demographics?
The importance of young consumers to the stereo headphone market is well known. The emergence of Beats by Dre ushered in the headphone as a fashion accessory trend, which appealed most strongly to consumers 34 and under. In fact, consumers in that age range accounted for 43 percent of all dollars spent on headphones in 2015, up from just 31 percent in 2013. This audio mega-trend also came at a time when many, mostly younger, consumers had transferred much of their consumption time to smartphones, which offered access to huge libraries of music via streaming services. Premium headphones complemented this transition in music listening, and the design, extended color-ways and celebrity affiliation of the products made them status symbols.
But headphones haven’t been the only place where young technology consumers are making an impact. A closer look at NPD’s Consumer Tracking Service shows those 34 and under accounted for 47 percent of home audio spending (inclusive of A/V receivers, home speakers, home CD players, soundbars and home theater in a box systems) in the 12 months ending in May, up from 38 percent just a year prior. While we observed increases in spending share collectively for these products, soundbars were a primary driver of growth. In fact, spending on soundbars among consumers 34 and under has grown 45 percent since last year. Data from NPD’s Soundbar Ownership and Application Study indicates future demand among these consumers is also strong, with a third (32 percent) of consumers age 18 to 34 saying they expect to buy a soundbar within the next 12 months.