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Notebooks, LCDs Tops In’08: NPD

Port Washington, N.Y. — Laptops and LCD-TVs were the biggest sellers for consumer electronics retailers in 2008, while Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Dell lead the pack in dealer revenue last year.

According to The NPD Group’s consumer tracking service, notebooks and LCDs were in a dead-heat for top category of 2008, generating retail sales of $20.2 billion and $19.9 billion, respectively.

For LCDs, that represented a 37 percent increase year over year.

But despite the surge, total CE sales fell 4 percent to $112.3 billion in 2008, following a 4.5 percent gain in 2007, the research firm found.

Rounding out the top-five product categories of 2008 were desktop PCs, inkjet cartridges and MP3 players.

Among CE retailers, Best Buy retained its No. 1 status, followed by Walmart, Dell and Circuit City. Apple edged out Staples for fifth place.

Online-only retailers had a good year in 2008, with CE revenue up 37 percent to $4.8 billion, while sales at the e-commerce sites of traditional retailers edged up 3 percent to $7.6 billion.

By comparison, storefront sales declined 3 percent to $83 billion, NPD reported.

Among OEMs, Hewlett-Packard took the top slot, with Apple, Sony, and Dell battling it out for second place. Samsung placed fifth. Direct sales dropped 6 percent for this group in 2008, reflecting Dell’s shift into traditional retail distribution. Absent Dell, non-retail sales increased 6 percent for OEMs.

“Despite a decline in sales and the upheaval in growth, pricing and distribution which occurred in 2008, the consumer technology industry has strong reasons to be optimistic in 2009,” said Stephen Baker, NPD’s industry analysis VP. “What we experienced in 2008 will continue to reshape the industry this year but we’ve already seen signs that people haven’t given up on consumer technology. The speed with which Circuit City’s liquidation occurred shows that when offered great bargains on electronics, consumers are willing to allocate their precious dollars towards these products over many others.”

Baker offered this advice to dealers, “We believe that merchants with a focus on great products and brands that provide compelling design, style, and price will be well positioned to ride out this poor climate and emerge even stronger when consumer technology resumes its more traditional growth path.”