New York - Santa's bag was decidedly mixed for consumer electronics retailers this Christmas.
Despite a better than 3 percent increase in total retail sales and rabid demand for smartphones, tablets and e-readers, tracking surveys and dealer accounts generally point to flat year-over-year revenue for the CE sector overall.
Retailers said the root cause of soft CE sales -- up just 0.4 percent for the Oct. 31-Dec. 11 period, according to MasterCard Advisors -- was lower prices and slackened demand for TV, a mature category that nonetheless remains the cornerstone of CE retailing.
Holiday traffic would have needed to rise 15 percent to 20 percent year over year to outpace declining TV prices, said Dave Workman, executive director/COO of the Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO Group).
Dealers compensated with audio, gaming, mobile, car A/V and all things Apple, particularly iPads, as tablets -- along with accessories and whole-home control applications -- become a new industry unto themselves.
Looking ahead to the New Year, dealers believe that more modest TV price erosion will help buoy bottom lines, while growing consumer confidence will lead to improved industry sales in 2011.