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Jolly Season Seen For Online Tech Retailers, But Brick-And-Mortar Will Struggle: CTA

It may be a bumpy holiday season for brick-and-mortar tech retailers as consumers shift CE purchases to other retail channels.

E-commerce, however, will see a different Christmas story, as both online and mobile sales are expected to experience strong growth.    

In what has become the official start to the CES season, Shawn DuBravac, chief economist of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), took the stage at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York to outline the trends show attendees can expect to see at CES 2017, as well as offer sales predictions for the holiday selling season.  

CES, which is produced by CTA, will celebrate its 50th year in January, and DuBravac noted during his presentation: “It’s an extremely exciting time to think about what the last 50 years have brought us and what the next 50 years will do.”

According to DuBravac, the industry can expect to see sales growth for the technology sector. Consumer credit has resumed growing — about 6 percent on a year-to-year basis — and consumers being willing to take on credit indicates a positive sign, he noted.   

Overall retail sales are projected to grow 3.8 percent this holiday season, with consumer spending on tech growing 3.1 percent. Electronics retailers, however, are expected to see a 2.9 percent decrease in sales. This can be attributed to flat to single-digit declines in brick-and-mortar sales, DuBravac told TWICE, as well as a shift of consumer tech purchases to other retail channels. Strong growth in online sales will also contribute to the decrease for tech specialty retailers, and indeed, online and mobile sales are predicted to increase 16.4 and 45.2 percent, respectively.  

Helping to drive the gains: 4K TV unit volume is up 40 percent year to date, according to CTA, and it expects 4.5 million units to ship in the fourth quarter.

The holiday selling season is also historically a big moment for emerging technology, and this year is expected to be no different for such categories as virtual reality, drones and wearables. New categories typically see 50 percent of their annual volume in the final eight weeks of the year, said DuBravac.

DuBravac identified five trends for this year’s show:

1. The New Voice of Computing: Voice control will take over as the next computer interface.

2. Connections & Computations: The widening availability of broadband and Wi-Fi will lead to increased uniformity and adoption of smart-home technology, including increased autonomous living. As devices are able to purchase items on consumers’ behalf (such as the Amazon Echo), this will in turn change the retail landscape and, eventually, what our cities look like. 

3. Transportation Transformation: CES will continue to be the stage for such vehicle technology as driver assistance and self-driving cars. Some auto manufacturers have even taken to releasing regular car models at CES, rather than traditional auto shows, said DuBravac.

4. AI’s Infusion into Our Lives & Business: Just as computers have influenced how we do our jobs today, artificial intelligence will play a similar role in the way we work, communicate and access information.

5. Digitizing the Consumer Experience: Show attendees can expect to see the future of entertainment at CES, including increased floor space dedicated to virtual reality and augmented reality.