Soundbar Sales Get Clubbed In Q1

Unit shipments off 28%; retail dollars off 8%
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San Diego — U.S. soundbar shipments took a hit in the first quarter, falling 28 percent in units to 1 million from 1.4 million, marking what could be their first year-over-year quarterly drop, Gap Intelligence's Quixel Research report shows.  

Retail-level dollar volume, however, fell only 8 percent in dollars to $286 million from $311 million.

Unit shipments were down so much in part because of the year-ago quarter’s unusual sales spike, senior analyst Deirdre Kennedy told TWICE. “Q1 2014 was an unusually plentiful Q1 as previous years did not show such high shipments,” she said.  In 2012, first-quarter shipments hit 500,000, and first-quarter 2013 shipments hit 700,000, she said.

Other factors, however, could also have clubbed soundbars in the quarter. “My guess is that the cause has something to do with the effects of wireless multiroom audio systems that are becoming ever more popular,” Kennedy said. “Compared to innovations in the soundbar market, wireless multiroom audio products … are the rising stars of audio. Shoppers are likely lured away by the ease of use and multiple uses of multiroom audio systems compared to the relatively single-purpose uses of the traditional soundbar.”

On the bright side, the quarter’s statistics show consumers are stepping up to costlier soundbars when they do buy soundbars. “The drop in revenue of only 8 percent indicates that although fewer units were shipped overall, they carried a higher average selling price than a year earlier,” Kennedy told TWICE. “We see this with double-digit growth in shares of revenue for units [street] priced within the $300 to $499 price bands.”

In addition, sales of bars between $400 and $499 almost quadrupled their share, the statistics show. The largest portion of shipments, however, remains in the $300 to $399 price range, accounting for 40 percent of unit shipments in the first quarter.

Quixel also found that:

--Shipments of HDMI-equipped bars grew 7 percent in the quarter compared with the year-ago quarter to account for 29 percent of units shipped.

--Soundbars with wireless subwoofers accounted for 71 percent of all soundbar retail-level revenue in the quarter.

--The share of soundbars lacking Bluetooth or Wi-Fi fell to 13 percent in the quarter, down from the fourth quarter’s 18 percent.

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