Something to think about for Christmas 2012

Sales in the consumer electronics space would have been abysmal in 2011 were it not for tablet and e-readers, according to data from market researcher The NPD Group, which shows Target has an opportunity to gain share.

Target’s recent moves to deepen its relationship with Apple could be beneficial in that regard, as it was Apple that drove CE activity in 2011 and is likely to do so again in 2012. Currently, Target is not among the top five CE retailers, which NPD lists as Best Buy, Walmart, Apple and a tie between Staples and Amazon.

Overall CE sales fell a half percent in 2011 to $144 billion and nearly 60% of all sales were driven by the top five categories of PCs, TVs, tablets/e-readers, mobile phones, and video game hardware, according to NPD. Of those, a near doubling of sales to $15 billion in the tablet/e-reader segment kept the industry from experiencing a larger decline as other segments experienced declining sales. Beyond the top five categories, NPD noted that sales fell by 8%.

“U.S. hardware sales growth is becoming harder and harder to achieve at the broad industry level,” said Stephen Baker, VP industry analysis at NPD.

Sales through online, direct mail, and TV shopping channels jumped 7% and accounted for 24% of all sales, up from 22% in 2010. Sales through these non-retail channels captured 25% of industry revenue in the fourth quarter of 2011.

“While in-store sales fell about 2.5% in 2011, the growth in online volumes for retailers meant that retail name plates still accounted for well over four of every five dollars spent on CE hardware in the United States,” Baker said “Despite their sales strength, retail stores still face serious challenges in 2012 as volumes in the traditional CE categories, which once carried these stores, continue to slide. It shouldn’t be forgotten, however, that a large majority of mobile phones and tablets/e-readers (the two fastest growing CE categories) have mostly been driven through in-store experiences.”

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