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Tablets, Smartphones To Highlight Holidays, CES

New York — Tablet computers, and to a lesser extent smartphones, will be the double darlings of the holiday selling season and International CES. 

That was the word from the Consumer Electronic Association (CEA), which provided a holiday heads-up and CES sneak peek at the International CES Unveiled press preview event here yesterday.

In a holiday forecast presentation, CEA chief economist and research senior director Shawn DuBravac and industry analysis director Steve Koenig stressed that tablets and smartphones will dominate the holidays, based on their consumer mindshare, counts of Black Friday promotions, and their still relatively low household penetration. When asked what they wished for most for the holidays, 8.3 percent of respondents in a CEA consumer poll cited tablets, ahead of money and even world peace, while tablets led in an informal count of pre-announced Black Friday promotions by retailers. What’s more, less than one-third (31 percent) of households own smartphones and tablets, Koenig said, setting the categories up as “the next big wave” of what people want to buy and plan to give this holiday season.

As a result, tablets and smartphones will account for the lion’s share of industry growth, as the 6 percent increase in total tech wholesale revenue forecast for this year drops to a 5 percent decline when tablets and smartphones are extracted, DuBravac said. 

In contrast, mature, waning categories like MP3 players and point-and-shoot digital cameras will continue their decline, although other sub-sectors within the audio and digital imaging categories, such as headphones and DSLRs, will enjoy brisk growth. Indeed, headphones are expected to grow 10 percent this year in unit volume while DSLR unit growth is pegged at13 percent, CEA research showed.

Similarly, while total flat-panel unit volume expected to decline slightly this year, vendors and retailers will see pockets of growth in 60-inch and larger displays and smart TVs.

All told, total holiday retail sales are projected to increase 3.4 percent this season, while online sales will soar 14 percent and CE sales will climb 2.2 percent, making for what Koenig described as “a pretty solid holiday season.”

The bigger and longer Black Friday period will be highlighted by earlier store openings on Thanksgiving, phased sales, guaranteed inventory, Black Friday-specific apps and an extended, week-long Cyber Monday period. That sales event, which was contrived six years ago by the National Retail Federation (NRF), has done very well, Koenig noted.

Looking ahead to January, DuBravac said tablets and smartphones will likely take center stage at CES, which has become an influential event for the mobile category and the world’s single-largest app event. Trends to watch include an expanding role for nearfield communications (NFC) and MEMS applications, and exponential growth of the “hub dynamic,” which has built a wide range of health, fitness, security, automotive, monitoring and control apps around the smartphone and tablet hardware core.