An uncertain economic future, dominated by talk of the proverbial “fiscal cliff," did nothing to help U.S. sales of consumer electronic goods on Black Friday, according to a report from IT research firm The NPD Group.
Retail sales for Black Friday declined by 5.6 percent, a steeper-than-anticipated decline, according to the firm. This follows last year’s loss of nearly 4 percent. Strong categories outside the top five volume leaders included detachable lens cameras, which saw revenues grow by 16 percent, and headphones, where units increased 15 percent and revenue rose by 33 percent.
In addition, strong sales of sound bars and streaming-capable speakers pointed to the strength in the audio market as sales dollars rose in those categories by 47 percent and 276 percent. NPD excluded sales of Amazon Kindle products, Apple’s iPad, Microsoft’s Surface tablet, mobile phones, and video games from its report.
Notebook PCs continued their yearlong struggle as units fell 10 percent, with sales of Apple notebooks flat and Windows notebooks down 10 percent, despite the launch of the highly anticipated Windows 8 operating system. Overall, Windows 8 represented 89 percent of notebook sales with an average selling price (ASP) of $368, and touch screens accounted for 3 percent of sales with an ASP of $668.
“This slow start is merely a continuation of the challenges seen in the consumer electronics business throughout 2012,” NPD vice president of industry analysis Stephen Baker said. “In an unbalanced market, where just a few categories deliver significant dollars, and even fewer offer any growth, the ability to deliver positive results will remain difficult for companies exposed to the entire consumer electronics marketplace.”
There were some bright spots, however, as personal computers (PCs), tablets running Google’s Android operating system and televisions accounted for 58 percent of all sales dollars, up from 51 percent of sales in 2009.
Despite a 4 percent increase in unit volume, flat-panel TV revenue dropped 6 percent as a result of ASPs falling from $333 this year from $367 last year. Flat-panel TVs measuring 50 inches and above experienced a unit volume increase of 65 percent, while the 60 inch and above flat-panel TVs saw sales increase 10 times over 2010 and accounted for 6 percent of all TV unit volume compared to less than 1 percent two years ago.
“The weaker categories, and ones that had once been high-gifting categories, drove down overall revenue,” Baker said. “In addition to the declines seen in point-and-shoot cameras and MP3 players, GPS revenue dropped 40 percent as did camcorder revenue. Even though this holiday’s outlook remains tentative at best, the prospects for next year (when many of these declining categories will have a much smaller impact on the market) looks much more promising.”