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Beats Still Tops In Headphones

NEW YORK — The headphones category continued on its seemingly unstoppable growth trajectory in 2014, posting yearly sales of $2.6 billion. The factors taking credit for this year’s growth? Bluetooth and the fitness segments.

According to The NPD Group, total headphone sales for 2014 rose 14 percent from 2013, reaching $2.6 billion. Premium headphones, which NPD classified as models priced $100 or more, were responsible for $1.1 billion of these sales, and were up 15 percent from 2013.

When broken out quarterly, total and premium headphones followed similar growth patterns for 2014. The fourth quarter had, as expected, holiday sales to thank for the boost (23 percent year-over-year growth for overall headphones and 18 percent growth for premium), while the third quarter (13 percent growth for overall and 15 percent for premium) could credit not only the back-to-school selling period, but the emergence of the fitness and Bluetooth segments as well, Ben Arnold, NPD Group executive director, industry analyst, told TWICE.

Both segments provided consumers a new reason to purchase another pair of headphones, he said.

Although Arnold said he expects the growth rate to slow for headphones this year, “new segments like headphones with biometric sensors embedded into ear cups, and even high-resolution-audio-capable headphones, could gain some traction in the market and maintain the growth rate in 2015.”

Bluetooth and the sports segments are also expected to see continued growth, as the rise in wearables motivates manufacturers to enter this category.

In 2013, the top five headphones brands based on dollar sales were Beats Electronics, Bose, Sony, Skullcandy and JVC. For 2014, four out of the five brands held court, with only JVC losing its No. 5 slot to LG.

Arnold attributed the shift to LG’s Tone wireless headphones, which he said has shown to be very popular, adding, “I suspect their wide distribution, including the increasingly important mobile carrier channel, has helped them gain share in the market.”

The top five premium headphones brands for 2014 were Beats, Bose, Jaybird, Sennheiser and Sony. When asked how Jaybird managed to crack the list, Arnold said, “Since Jaybird is almost exclusively sports-focused and wireless, they’ve carved out a niche in the premium segment. They’ve been on the market with this strategy for some time, and now, as those segments have become more important, their brand has become synonymous with sports and wireless.”