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Audio Sales Down 12.7% During April

Factory-level sales of home speakers and portable CD players showed surprising strength in April, despite the steepest one-month decline in total audio industry sales in more than five years, CEA statistics show.

Sales in all key audio segments (portables, home components, home systems, and aftermarket autosound) slid during the month, dragging down total audio sales by 12.7 percent in April to $540 million. April’s plunge, combined with February’s 11.8 percent decrease, contributed to a 4.1 percent drop in year-to-date sales to $2.3 billion.

April’s percentage decline was the steepest since February 1996’s 12.9 percent drop, which followed back-to-back monthly drops of 20.2 percent and 18.5 percent.

This year’s industrywide slump is so broad-based that only one industry segment — home systems — posted a year-to-date sales gain, and that was only 1.3 percent. Here’s how the industry segments fared in the latest CEA report:

Portables: Sales in this segment suffered the least in April, slipping 7.9 percent to $165 million for the month and 4.7 percent to $635 million for the year to date. Despite the slump, sales of portable CD players rose 16 percent in April to $65.6 million. Overall unit sales of portable audio (including home radios) rose 2 percent during the four-month period.

Autosound: Twelve-volt sales slipped for the third time this year, dropping 9.9 percent in April to $165 million, despite March’s 10.9 percent gain. Year-to-date sales were off 2.4 percent to $720 million.

Home systems: The segment posted its largest one-month drop in three years, falling 14.3 percent in April to $123 million. It was the largest one-month decline since April 1998’s 15.6 percent decline. Year-to-date sales, however, were up 1.3 percent to $534 million, largely because of a near 30-percent increase in January sales.

Home components: The audio Armageddon might have arrived. In the steepest one-month drop in almost nine years, component audio sales plunged 23 percent to $86 million in April, dragging down year-to-date sales by 12.2 percent to $412 million. So far this year, components posted a sales gain only in March.

Within the component segment, speakers and THX-certified receivers posted strong gains for the month. Speaker sales were up 22 percent to $36.8 million, due in part to a 698 percent gain in five-speaker home theater packages to $2.9 million and a 105 percent gain in sales of six-speaker packages to $6.6 million. Floorstanding speaker sales were up 25 percent to $8.1 million, and powered subwoofer sales rose 18 percent to $5.7 million. THX receiver sales were up 28 percent to $3.6 million for the month.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, year-to-date component sales were running at an annualized rate of $1.4 billion, below 2000’s full-year sales of $1.52 billion.

Total home audio: Combined sales of home audio components and home systems fell 18.1 percent for the month to $210 million and 5.1 percent for the year-to-date to $946 million.