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Accessories, The ‘Forgotten’ Category, Hits $11B At Retail

In past years, the accessories category has been a business that everyone knows is there, but is rarely acknowledged. Perhaps it’s some kind of historical perception of accessories as the unglamorous part of the consumer electronics market not worthy of focus.

However, as one of CE’s most profitable segments, the accessories category is vital to retailers as well as manufacturers. As 2005 comes to a close, the good news is that accessories are also becoming important for consumers. Now, more than ever, consumers realize that in order to get the most out of their electronics products, they need the right accessories.

The underlying beauty of the accessories market is that there is something for everyone. Customers range from bargain hunters to big spenders. Some products fall in the bucket of necessity, such as A/V cables and wireless phone chargers, while others are optional, such as carrying cases and faceplates.

This year, for the first time, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) included accessories in its annual CE holiday purchasing survey. The results show strong levels of planned gift-giving around accessories. Consumers are likely to see flash-media cards, headphones and handset battery chargers tied up with a bow this year, since these were the survey’s top three expected accessories gift items.

For 2005, CEA had projected accessories shipment revenue to grow by 11 percent, slightly ahead of overall CE industry growth of 9 percent. This translates into total 2005 revenue of $8.3 billion dollars in the accessories market. Converted into retail sales, accessories should reach more than $11 billion in total by year-end.

This growth in the accessories market — spurred in large measure by such current trends as personalization and home theater — presents retailers and manufacturers with several opportunities. There is a very real potential for upgrading the consumer to a better product experience through higher-end accessories.

According to CEA’s Accessories Purchasing Behavior Study, published in June, many accessories purchasers bought in order to upgrade an existing product and many more seek to do so.

Tapping into this opportunity should involve a combination of effective promotions and targeted marketing. At the same time, manufacturers and retailers must be mindful of owner satisfaction since some consumers are frustrated by having to buy a better accessory after the purchase, when it could have been bundled with the original product.

Another major opportunity for dealers and accessories manufacturers lies in the issue of quality. Contrary to the idea of accessories as cheap afterthoughts for the customer, CEA’s research shows that there is a fundamental desire for a quality product among the user base. For some, this quest for quality becomes a prime pursuit, spanning both bundled accessories and those purchased after the original CE device.

Through CEA, retailers and manufacturers have resources that can help them improve consumers’ accessories purchasing experience. Among them is the CEA Connections Guide, an online flash program available at, which demystifies the inputs and outputs of A/V products, and explains the performance differences between various cables. By selecting the best connections and cables, your customers can get the most out of their CE products, and — as retailers — you can reduce product-return rates.

Another resource is the Antenna Web, found at, which is an online mapping tool that guides users step-by-step to find the right antenna for their specific location and equipment.

In addition, retailers can pick up an updated version of the Accessorize Now! Retailer Tool Kit at the 2006 International CES in Las Vegas next month. The CEA Accessories Division will also host an educational session there, titled “Re-thinking the Accessories Supply Chain,” that will explore how the digital revolution and consumer purchasing behaviors are changing the accessories industry. For more information, visit