That was the top level conclusion of Consumer Electronic Association’s (CEA) 19th Annual Holiday CE Purchase Patterns Study, whose results were presented in San Francisco yesterday. Overall retail sales in the 2012 holiday season will rise about 3.4%, but the trends in spending will be very similar to a year ago.
Because the numbers look so similar to last year, presenters Steve Koenig and Shawn DuBravac of the CEA focused much of the session on the trend over the last five years. This showed that the CE industry has not recovered from its peak in 2005-2006, but the mix of products that are driving sales has changed.
For example, the average amount a consumer U.S. household spent during the Holidays on gifts was $1,671. In 2012, that number should reach about $1,634, an 11% increase from 2011, but still below 2007 levels. But the amount spent on CE gifts has increased 30% in that time span from $194 to $252 (up 2.4% from 2011). For these CE gifts, CEA said men outspent women ($291/$205), younger buyers (1-24) outspent older (+55) buyers ($253/$106) and households with kids outspent households without them ($381/$180).
On-line sales are becoming more mature as high growth rates a decade ago are moderating now. In 2012, CEA expects on-line retail growth of 13.5%.
So what are expected to be strong sellers in Q4’12? Tablets and smartphones, to probably no one’s surprise. As shown in the chart, tablets will grow a whopping 32M units representing a 112% year over year gain. Consumers say they want a table over other options like money and peace and happiness (yes that was one of the survey questions).
The CEA also showed a chart showing the history of “purchase intent” for various mobile devices over the last decade. This showed how product interest varies with time and that recently tablets, smartphones and e-book readers are gaining ascendancy. And with interest in these products come increased expectations along with lower prices. CEA analysis suggests that in 2011, the “optimal” price for a tablet was about $335. In 2012, that drops to about $195. All that means that while units sales soar, revenue does not keep pace.
The number two product of interest to consumers are smartphones. Here, CEA sees units shipments in the U.S. climbing past 100M in 2012, with 20% growth in 2013. But as with tablets, revenue growth will not match the unit growth as ASPs decline.
TV sales will be weak, down 1% from Q4’11, but ASPs are expected to rise slightly. This has been driven by strong adoption of the jumbo TV category (>60”) which has surged in the last year. In fact, a milestone was achieved this year as jumbo TV sales eclipsed small TV (<20”) sales for the first time ever.
The TV news is also good for 3D as 45% of consumer who intend to purchase a TV will want 3D capability.
While the Holidays seem to be shaping up as “okay”, there are still plenty of storm clouds on the horizon. Economic uncertainty is perhaps the biggest macro-economic factor that the CE can little control.
And at the personal level, CEA asked consumers what concerns they have that will influence their Holiday buying budget. Looking at a 4-year trend reveals that “Lost Job / Unemployed” continues to be a major drag on spending.
We will have additional stories on what CEA sees in the retail selling environment.
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