A record 68 percent of U.S. consumers plan to buy tech gifts this holiday season — up 6 percent over last year — setting the industry up for what may be its best Christmas ever.
According to the 23rd Annual Consumer Technology Holiday Purchase Patterns Study, produced by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), CE spending will increase 3.1 percent to more than $36 billion in November and December, driven by a compelling mix of legacy- and emerging-tech products.
By comparison, total holiday sales are expected to grow 3.8 percent to nearly $825 billion, the research suggests, excluding gas and restaurant sales.
“The 2016 holiday season looks to be the biggest on record for the tech sector, thanks to fresh and innovative products on the market such as wearable tech, VR headsets, drones and digital assistant devices,” said CTA chief economist Shawn DuBravac. “Our research also finds that most Americans are now using tech devices to help them research and buy tech gifts, a key driver of tech spending this holiday.”
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Leading the product pack once again are headphones, the gift of choice for 40 percent of consumers. Conversely, those on the receiving end are most hoping to find laptops, TVs, tablets, smartphones and gaming consoles beneath their trees in December.
Within emerging tech, top gift items include:
*wearables (on 27 percent of consumers’ shopping liss), led by smart watches (17 percent) and fitness activity trackers (15 percent);
*smart-home devices (24 percent), including smart thermostats (10 percent) and digital assistant devices such as Amazons Echo (6 percent);
*Connected or digital toys (11 percent);
*VR headsets (10 percent), with projected volume of 700,000 units as several tech leaders introduce new models to the market; and
*Drones (9 percent), with projected sales of about 1.2 million units this holiday season (up 112 percent over 2015).
Where will consumers go for all these goodies? CTA’s study found that more than half (57 percent, up 2 percentage points) are likely to shop online for tech this year, although physical stores remain the main source of CE gift purchases, with 74 percent likely to purchase from a brick-and-mortar location, albeit down 3 percentage points from last year.
Total online holiday sales are expected to grow 16.4 percent to $84.2 billion, CTA forecasts, while sales through mobile devices will soar 45.2 percent to $20.1 billion.
One possible hitch to all the glad tiding: the outcome of the presidential election, which was cited by 38 percent of consumers as a cause for concern and a reason that they’ll spend less this holiday season.
“The holiday shopping season has been steadily creeping earlier and earlier into the year, but we expect to see a delay in the barrage of holiday promotions this year until after the presidential election,” DuBravac said. “Given uncertainty among voters, this election will impact not only when consumers begin to shop but, potentially, how much they spend.”
The CTA study is based on a September telephone survey of 1,005 U.S. adults ages 18 and over. The complete report is available at CTA.tech/holiday.