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Audio Sales Climbing Back But Haven’t Reached Peak

Arlington, Va. — Factory-level audio sales grew 14.5 percent in 2004 to a three-year high of $7.9 billion, reversing three consecutive years of decline and marking the industry’s first double-digit percentage gain since 1994, when sales rose 12.4 percent, final Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) statistics show.

Despite a surge in all major product categories, industry-wide audio sales remained well below their 2000 peak of $8.6 billion.

All major categories posted solid double-digit percentage gains in 2004, with second-half momentum growing in portable audio and aftermarket autosound, which benefited from surging satellite-radio sales. Early-year strength in home components and systems, on the other hand, began to peter out in the second half, and during the fourth quarter, their sales went into decline.

Here’s how the categories fared in December, the fourth quarter, second half and full year:

Portable audio: Largely on sales gains in MP3 portables, particularly Apple iPods, portable audio sales surged 56.1 percent in December to $249 million, 32.6 percent in the quarter to $937.6 million, and 33.4 percent in the second half to $1.7 billion. Full-year sales were up 24.1 percent to $2.6 billion.

The statistics show portable’s first-half momentum accelerating in the second half, when sales growth of 33.4 percent outpaced the first half’s 9.6 percent gain.

Autosound: The aftermarket world turned upside down in 2004, when fourth-quarter sales exceeded second-quarter sales for the first time in the industry’s history, CEA said. The association attributed the gain to satellite radio. The industry shipped 1.4 million satellite-radio units in December alone, said CEA’s analyst Sean Wargo. Although most units shipped were transportable units and “not completely an autosound phenomenon,” the volume “arguably mostly benefits the aftermarket manufacturers,” he told TWICE.

Autosound sales rose in December by 58.9 percent to $215.4 million, in the fourth quarter by 29.1 percent to $639.5 million, in the second half by 13.8 percent to $1.15 billion, and in the full year by 9.3 percent to $2.3 billion.

At $639.5 million, the fourth quarter was autosound’s highest volume quarter of the year — although just barely. First-quarter sales were $637.7 million. Sales in the industry’s traditionally strongest second quarter were $549.2 million.

Home components: Twelve consecutive months of mostly double-digit percentage gains came to an end in October 2004, after sales began to slow slightly in the third quarter. Despite the fourth-quarter drop, full-year sales were up 16.1 percent to $1.1 billion.

In December, sales were off 2.5 percent to $95.2 million, and fourth-quarter sales were off 6.1 percent to $317.3 million. Despite the fourth-quarter drop, second-half sales were up 5 percent to $599.2 million, thanks to double-digit third-quarter growth.

Home systems: Sales in December and the fourth quarter slipped, but not enough to drag down second-half and full-year sales. Sales fell in December by 12.7 percent to $127.2 million, and they slipped in the quarter by 0.2 percent to $581.3 million. Second-half sales were up 5.5 percent to $1.1 billion, and full-year sales rose 8.2 percent to $1.8 billion.

Total home audio: Combined sales of home systems and home components fell in the month and quarter but rose in the half and full year. December sales fell 8.6 percent to $222.4 million and 2.3 percent in the quarter to $898.6 million. Second-half sales were up 5.4 percent to $1.7 billion, and full-year sales were up 11.1 percent to just under $3.0 billion.

Total audio: Combined sales of home, portable and car audio gained in all time periods. December sales were up 27.5 percent to $686.8 million; fourth-quarter sales were up by 16.6 percent to $2.48 billion; second-half sales were up 16.8 percent to $4.5 billion; and full-year sales were up 14.5 percent to $7.9 billion.