The gloom and doom predictions concerning the retail computer products were belayed to some extent with data released from NPDTechworld that showed sales rallied during the fourth quarter and performed well when PCs sales were excluded.
NPDTechworld research shows that retail computer product sales in the United States were essentially flat in 2001, dipping 0.7 percent, on sales of $25.7 billion. The holiday selling season buoyed this figure with sales inching up 2.2 percent for the last quarter. However, Steve Baker, NPDTechworld's director of IT research, said the revenue numbers jump to a healthy 9.5 percent when the PC sales numbers are pulled from the mix.
"The decline of the PC market in 2001 had an outsize effect on sales growth," he said.
PC revenue fell 20 percent last year with unit sales tumbling 18 percent, and this led to a marked decline in PC add-on peripherals such as monitors and inkjet printers. Peripheral sales dropped 7.1 percent last year, although sales recovered a small amount during the fourth quarter, creeping up 1 percent.
Baker said many of the dollars normally spent on this category migrated to accessories, such as consumables like CD-R media, memory cards and inkjet printer cartridges. At the same time products such as mice, PC cameras, hard drives and networking equipment were up 12.7 percent.
"In 2001 the products that sold best were the ones that enabled the use of all the new technology purchased in the last few years or products that demonstrable upgrade over what had been available," Baker said. The previous purchases driving sales were digital cameras, which pushed inkjet cartridge sales up 36 percent, and CD burners, which boosted media sales by almost 38 percent.
If the once-hot PC/printer/CRT monitor lines were cold last year, several products that had been just average sales performers took off in 2001. Leading the pack were LCD monitors. Huge price drops that brought the cost for a 15-inch flat panel down to the $300-$400 range drove sales up 261 percent last year with sales up almost 400 percent in December 2001 versus the previous December.
The rising availability of 1394 FireWire ports on PCs and the inclusion of dramatically faster USB 2.0 ports on PCs starting late last year enabled external hard drive sales to post a 182 percent gain in sales in 2001.
Home networking, particularly the wireless type, experienced a wildly successful year with sales of network access points climbing 128 percent. NPD expects this trend to continue this year with the adoption of the WiFi standard.