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Back-To-School CE Sales Down 13%: NPD

Lower average selling prices contributed to a 12.5 percent decline in back-to-school sales of CE and IT products, to $7.6 billion, despite a surge in notebook PC purchases.

The figures, compiled by market research firm The NPD Group through its weekly tracking service, cover the seven-week period from July 26 through Sept. 12.

Notebooks were the largest dollar category in back-to-school CE and IT spending, comprising 21 percent of all revenue. Nevertheless, notebook revenue was flat with 2008 as the average selling price (ASP) of the portable computers fell from $804 to $624 year over year.

Within the category, netbooks were a big draw, accounting for 14 percent of all notebook units sold for back-to-school, up from just less than 2 percent of sales last year.

“Notebooks seem to be recession-proof, and this back-to-school season was no exception,” said Stephen Baker, NPD’s industry analysis VP. “We are seeing more consumers opt for netbooks and low-cost notebooks under $500 as viable options despite the changing economy.”

Baker noted that low-cost notebooks and netbooks were heavily promoted this year, and accounted for almost half of all notebook PC Sunday advertising in July and August, according to NPD’s retail insight service.

Major declines in ASPs kept nearly all CE categories from seeing any revenue gains, NPD said, as prices ranged from flat for multifunction ink-jet printers to down 30 percent for flat-panel TVs.

But while falling average prices constrained revenue growth, they likely helped many categories deliver solid unit volumes despite the overall weak economy, the research group said.