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CEA: Home, Portable Audio To Grow 1.6% In 2001

ARLINGTON, VA. -Combined factory-level sales of home and portable audio will cough up a 1.6 percent gain to $6.07 billion in 2001 following last year’s 1.1 percent decline, according to a Consumer Electronics Association forecast.

Last year’s decline came despite surging double-digit growth in first-half home and portable audio sales and more modest growth in the third quarter, CEA statistics show.

The association expects portable audio sales (CD, cassette and Internet audio) to stabilize this year after last year’s precipitous 21.4 percent decline, which was driven by a collapsing boombox market pressured by low-price shelf systems and high-quality clock and tabletop radios.

CEA expects this year’s home audio growth to slow to 1.9 percent from last year’s estimated 9.6 percent gain, attributable mainly to declining component sales and a significant slowdown in shelf-system growth.

Home audio sales (consisting of components, shelf and rack systems, home-theater-in-a-box systems and home radios) will hit $4.41 billion. Growth is forecast in shelf systems, home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) systems and home radios.

Portable audio sales (including Internet portables) will hit $1.65 billion, up 1 percent. Growth is forecast in headset portables and Internet audio portables.

Here’s a category-by-category breakout of CEA’s forecasts for 2001:

Components: Sales will decline for the seventh consecutive year, slipping 4.2 percent to $1.46 billion following a 0.1 percent drop in 2000. Last year’s decline came despite double-digit first-half growth. Third-quarter sales, however, slowed to 4.6 percent, foreshadowing a disappointing fourth quarter that dragged down full-year sales.

Rack, shelf systems: Don’t expect a repeat of last year’s robust, and unexpected, 16.6 percent growth in shelf-system sales to $1.98 billion. CEA forecasts a meager 1.6 percent gain to $2.01 billion despite a 4.8 percent unit-sales gain to 12.4 million. The average factory-level price will slip 3 percent to $162.

Rack systems won’t fade away completely in 2001, but they will be hard to find. Sales will slide 20.7 percent to $65 million on top of last year’s 44.6 percent decline.

Between flagging shelf-system growth and the continuing collapse of rack-system sales, total system sales (excluding HTiBs) will rise 0.7 percent to $2.07 billion at a fraction of last year’s estimated 11.7 percent growth rate.

HTiB: The packaged home theater solution was a hit last year, when sales surged 54.1 percent to $353 million, thanks in part to an increase in average wholesale pricing, which rose 4.9 percent to $298 from $284.

This year’s growth rate will be halved but still greatly appreciated by retailers and suppliers, who will increase their HTiB sales by 22.7 percent to $433 million if CEA forecasts pan out.

Home radios: The only other bastion of double-digit dollar growth in 2001 will be home radios, whose sales are forecast to grow 13.6 percent to $443 million following last year’s estimated 12.1 percent increase to $390 million. Sales continue to exceed HTiB sales.

Portable CD, cassette: Boombox sales fell faster than the Nasdaq in 2000 and weren’t offset by modest growth in suppliers’ headphone stereo portfolio. As a result, combined sales of headphone and boombox portables (CD and cassette only) fell 27.1 percent to $1.45 billion, but sales have just about hit bottom. CEA forecasts a 0.3 percent decline in 2001 to $1.44 billion.

Headset portable sales rose 8.2 percent in units and dollars to 29.7 million and $1.1 billion in 2000, and they’re forecast to rise another 4 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively, to 30.9 million and $1.17 billion. The average wholesale price is forecast to rise to $38 from $37.

Last year, on the other hand, boomboxes bombed. Sales imploded 64 percent to $350 million from 1999’s $972 million. Fast becoming the rack systems of the portable audio business, boombox sales will suffer another 22.8 percent decline in 2001 to $270 million, according to CEA forecasts.

MP3 (Internet audio) portables: Strong growth in this still-small category didn’t come close last year to defusing the boombox bomb. Dollar volume rose last year by 92 percent to $192 million on a unit-sales gain of 133.4 percent to 1.17 million. The average wholesale price slipped last year by 10.6 percent to $178, CEA estimates.

This year, the association forecasts only a 9.4 percent dollar gain to $210 million and a 54.2 percent unit-sale increase to 1.8 million. The average wholesale price will slip another 10.1 percent to $160.

CEA 1999-2001 Audio Sales Outlook / Units in 1,000s; $ value in millions

(1) Includes home, portable and autosound.

(2) Includes table, clock and portable.

(3) Includes radio combinations.

(4) Includes portables counted elsewhere; exlcudes MP3.

Source: CEAcTWICE 2001