Sales By Outlet Stay The Course

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The various slices of the computer retail pie remained relatively static during the past two years, with each retail segment maintaining its share of the market, but several categories experienced strong growth in year-over-year sales.

Computer superstores kept the lead, pulling in $9.8 billion, or 36.6% of the total $27.8 billion in computer sales in 1998. This was 13% higher than the $8.5 billion computer superstores posted in 1997, but the category as a whole only grew 0.1% when compared to total computer sales.

Consumer electronics/appliance stores with a nationwide presence were a distant second with $6.4 billion in sales, up a healthy 18.4% from the $5.4 billion made in 1997. CE store sales comprised 23% of all computer sales last year.

Regional CE dealers lost ground, as sales dropped 11.2% to $195 million in 1998 from $220 million in 1997. However, these chains confined to one market managed to break even for 1998-1997, with sales of $85 million in each year.

The regional and single-market companies together were responsible for less than 2% of all computer product sales.

With 19% of the market last year on $5.2 billion in sales, the office-supply category managed to boost sales 20% in 1998 from the $4.4 billion made in 1997 and bump up its overall share of the market to 19% from 18.4%. This category may soon see some large changes this year as OfficeMax begins to test-market its IBM store-within-a-store concept and other chains pare down the number of PC SKUs being carried.

The consumer-direct category, which is split between direct mail and the Internet, enjoyed an increase in sales in 1998. Mail order tallied $1.9 billion in sales, up 12.8% from the $1.7 billion made in 1997 - though its percentage of all computer product sales decreased to 7% from 7.2%. Internet sales jumped 13% to $456 million in 1998 from the $404 million posted in 1997.

Warehouse clubs posted impressive gains, with sales leaping 12% in 1998 to $1.1 billion from $986 million. However, the clubs' percentage of all computer sales dipped 0.1% to 4%, according to the PC Registry.

Mass merchants also lost a small amount of ground in 1998. Sales did manage to inch up to $1.1 billion, from just over $1 billion the year before, an 11.8% increase, but their overall chunk of the market decreased to 4.1% from 4.2%.

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