Port Washington, N.Y. - U.S. retail sales of consumer electronics slipped 0.5 percent in 2011 to nearly $144 billion, The NPD Group reported.
Nearly 60 percent of the sell-through was driven by the top five CE categories - PCs, TVs, tablets/e-readers, mobile phones and video game hardware - with help from No. 1 brand Apple and No. 1 CE retailer Best Buy.
Broken out by distribution channel, in-store sales fell about 2.5 percent while sales through online, direct mail and TV shopping channels jumped 7 percent last year, accounting for 24 percent of all sales, up from 22 percent in 2010. Sales through these non-brick-and-mortar channels captured 25 percent of industry revenue in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Despite their sales strength, retail stores still face serious challenges in 2012 as volumes in the traditional CE categories, which once carried these stores, continue to slide," said NPD industry analysis VP Stephen Baker. "It shouldn't be forgotten, however, that a large majority of mobile phones and tablets/e-readers" - which he described as the two fastest growing CE categories - "have mostly been driven through in-store experiences," and that retail nameplates still accounted for well over four of every five dollars spent on CE hardware in the U.S.
Broken out by product category, PCs (notebooks and desktops) generated the most revenue with nearly $28 billion in sales, accounting for almost 20 percent of sales, but that figure was down 3 percent from 2010.
Tablets/e-readers were the clear winner in 2011, NPD said, nearly doubling sales to $15 billion in 2011.
"U.S. hardware sales growth is becoming harder and harder to achieve at the broad industry level," noted Baker. "Sales outside of the top five categories fell by 8 percent in 2011 as consumers shifted spending from older technologies to a narrow range of products."
Apple clearly benefited from this shift, becoming the top-volume CE brand for the second consecutive year with a 36-percent sales spike. The company also claimed a 19 percent share of all CE sales dollars in the fourth quarter of 2011, nearly twice that of No. 2 brand Hewlett-Packard, whose 2011 sales slipped 3 percent. Trailing Apple and HP were Samsung, with a 6 percent sales decline; Sony, whose sales sank 21 percent; and Dell, whose sales fell 17 percent.
Among retailers, Best Buy came out on top once again, followed by Walmart and Apple. Staples and Amazon tied for fourth place to round out the top five, in a repeat of 2010.