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March, Q1 Audio Sales Hit 12-Year Low

5/22/2003 08:48:00 AM Eastern

Arlington, Va. - Factory-level audio sales fell to a 12-year low during March and the first quarter, driven by declines in all four key audio segments during both periods, CEA statistics show.

March sales fell 20.1 percent to $498.4 million, their lowest level since 1991's $476.7 million and well below their $766.9 million peak in March 2001. All four key segments - autosound, home components, home systems, and portables - posted double-digit percentage declines for the month.

March's decline, following two months of single-digit declines, helped drag down first-quarter sales for the third consecutive year, this time by 12.8 percent to $1.37 billion. Quarterly sales in all segments but autosound fell at double-digit rates, and autosound sales slid at a low-single-digit rate.

Industrywide first-quarter sales were at their lowest level since 1991's $1.35 billion and were well below the $1.78 billion peak posted in 2000. The first-quarter contraction, however, wasn't as severe as the 25 percent decline posted in 2002's fourth quarter.

Here's how key audio segments fared in March and the first quarter:

Aftermarket autosound: Sales slipped for the first time this year when March's volume dropped by 10.6 percent to a five-year low of $200 million. First-quarter sales were off 2.8 percent to $566 million, marking the first first-quarter autosound decline since 1998.

Portables: Sales in the category, including home radios, fell for the eighth consecutive month, all at double-digit rates. March sales contracted 23.5 percent to a pre-1990's level of $123.9 million, helping drive down first-quarter sales by 18.9 percent to a pre-1990's $291.9 million. Quarterly portable sales declined in all but one of the nine previous quarters.

Home systems: Sales dropped for the ninth consecutive month in March, when a 24 percent decline brought sales down to a nine-year low of $105.2 million. First-quarter sales dropped for the second consecutive year, this time by 13.5 percent to a seven-year low of $307.2 million.

Home components: Ironically, sales in a category that accounted for the majority of home audio sales in the 1980s fell to 1980s levels (in unadjusted dollars) for the month and quarter. March sales fell 30.5 percent to a pre-1990s level of $69.4 million, and first-quarter sales dove 25.3 percent to a pre-1990's $204.9 million. First-quarter sales were off for the third consecutive year.

Total home audio: Combined sales of home systems and components fell to pre-1990's levels for the month and quarter. March sales dropped 18 percent to $174.5 million, well below their $292.9 million peak in March 2001. Quarterly sales dropped 18.6 percent to $512.2 million.

March, Q1 Audio Sales

Q1 Audio Sales, 1998-2003

(Factory level in millions, 2003)

(Factory level in millions)


1st Qtr.


$123.9 (-23.5%)

$291.9 (-18.9%)




Home Components**

$69.4 (-30.5%)

$204.9 (-25.3%)




Home Systems***

$105.2 (-24.0%)

$307.2 (-13.5%)




Aftermarket Autosound

$200.0 (-10.6%)

$566.3 (-2.8%)




Total Audio

$498.4 (-20.1%)

$1,370.3 (-12.8%)







* includes home radios.

** Consists of electronic components, speakers

*** Consists of shelf, rack and home-theater-in-a-box electronics/speaker systems.

Source: Consumer Electronics Association, Arlington, Va.
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