Popular devices like Google Android smartphones and tablets like the iPad Mini from Apple were among the bright spots in the consumer electronics market in 2012, though overall sales declined by 2 percent to nearly $143 billion, according to a report from IT research firm NPD Group.
This is the second consecutive year that consumer electronics sales have fallen, following the less than 1 percent drop in 2011. The report also noted that since 2010, consumer technology sales have declined by $4 billion. Tablets and smartphones were the only two of the top five categories to post growth, and accounted for the increase in revenue share among the top categories.
"While sales fell in consumer technology for the second consecutive year, there was an uptick in Q4 which is cause for optimism," Stephen Baker, NPD vice president of industry analysis, said in a statement. "After struggles with declining categories, and increasingly saturated markets over the last few years, fourth-quarter results may be the first sign that even as a mature industry consumer technology can grow again, albeit with a very different dynamic than in previous growth spurts."
Notebooks, flat panel TVs, smartphones, tablets and desktop computers accounted for 53 percent of sales in 2012, compared with 49 percent in 2011. The rate of revenue decline for PC products accelerated year-over-year as tablet sales started to erode the computer marketplace, while TVs remained mired in a cycle of declining prices and weak volume as the strong momentum from the very large screen market was unable to offset stagnant demand.
"While [consumer electronics] remains a dynamic industry, the fact is that the stellar growth of the past few years has made growth today more difficult," said Baker. "Most market segments have high penetration rates and the demand for additional devices is slowing, or declining. Tablets and smartphones have been able to stimulate demand for additional devices, but unfortunately it hasn't been enough, yet, to sustain positive growth trends."
Apple, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard, Sony and Dell were the top five brands for the year and accounted for 45 percent of sales, up from 42 percent in 2011. Arch-rivals Apple and Samsung accounted for $6.5 billion in increased sales in 2012.
Apple was the clear market leader, with 19.9 percent market share. Samsung followed, with 9.3 percent; HP, with 8.2 percent; Sony, with 4.4 percent; and Dell, with 3 percent. Big-box retailers Best Buy, Walmart and Staples joined Apple, Amazon and Staples as the top consumer electronics retailers in 2012.