Last month my family embarked on some nice revenge travel – the first time we have flown anywhere since 2019. Like others venturing out this summer, we packed the standard beach vacation supplies, sunscreen and new sandals, but before we hit the road, we realized our outdoor tech was lacking. We were going to see family, lie on the beach, and kayak for the first time in over a year and we needed some new technology – cameras, speakers, and headphones – to prepare us for the ultimate vacation.
According to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service, U.S. consumer technology industry revenue in Q2 2021 grew 3% compared to 2020, so as a whole, technology sales were performing well leading up to the summer. But as more consumers like me re-engage with the experience economy, travel, outdoor events, and other communal gatherings that were curtailed in 2020, technology products that help complement these pursuits are rebounding from slow 2020 sales.
Digital cameras are one of the best examples. In the detachable lens category, mirrorless camera revenue has more than doubled in the first half of 2021 compared to first half 2020 and unit sales exceeded 2019 by 28%. Not to be outdone, camcorder unit sales grew 17% during the three months ending in June fueled by higher sales of action cameras and, presumably, a few vacations. Even point-and-shoot cameras, a category consistently declining 20% or more over the last several years, have seen revenue sales recover, growing 15% in the first half of 2021.
Sales in other technology categories also point to consumers’ return to experiences and travel. Wireless Bluetooth speaker revenue increased 20% so far this year (Jan.-June), including large party box speakers (+81%) and speakers with karaoke capabilities (revenue is up nearly 3x) – the return of occasions and gatherings are a logical driver.
Summer road trips are helping boost sales of car audio products as sales of in-dash stereo receivers, up 15%, car amplifiers, up 48%, and satellite radio boxes, up 36%, are all on the rise in the first half after declining in 2020. And while sales of mobile phone accessories including cases, screen protection, and mobile power began to recover during the second half of 2020 as mobile carrier stores reopened and consumers upgraded to new 5G phones, sales continued to rebound this spring as people spent more time outside their homes with their phones compared to last year.
Though summer is winding down and the return to schools and offices is on many peoples’ minds, I believe spending on revenge travel and experiences will continue. Over the last year and a half technology proved its importance to consumers when we were all unable to leave our homes. As the country continues to deal with the pandemic, we are seeing the vital role technology plays in life and experiences outside the home as well.
Ben Arnold, Executive Director, Industry Analyst, NPD Group, covers consumer electronics with an emphasis on video and audio products. A veteran analyst, he has covered the media and technology industries for over 10 years with an eye on trends in consumer habits and usage. Ben offers expert insight and commentary on these and other industry related topics: audio and video electronics sales and trends, consumer demographic and usage profiles, consumer attitudes at retail, and trends in device feature sets.