Anchors Aweigh

As the holiday season fast approaches, the big question is what’s going to happen in the electronics market. There has been a lot of discussion about the strong product slate hitting the store shelves, the impact of mobile and ecommerce, showrooming, the robust marketing that is likely to occur due to the shortened selling season, and the iffy economic environment creating a volatile and maybe a little uncertain mix for this year’s sales opportunities. But most of that is noise.
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To “E” or Not to “E”

E-Commerce that is! One thing is for certain; when it comes to the Consumer Electronics industry in Canada, more and more Canadians are deciding that buying online is the way to go. According to NPD Canada’s Consumer Tracking Service, most CE category share of online purchases has increased. Two of the categories making the largest gains are TVs and cameras. Television e-commerce sales nearly doubled over the past two years, jumping from 6 percent in 2011 to 11 percent in 2013 and cameras increased from 9 percent to 16 percent over that same timeframe.
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A Mini for the Max

As expected, Apple rolled out new tablets yesterday, but along with the new tablets the old challenges remain.  As the tablet market has swung dramatically towards the small, and low-cost device, Apple once again shows that they believe that their place is to guide the market upward and remain the rational player in the segment.  Whether that strategy will be successful, as it appears to be in the smartphone market, is now one of the mysteries of the holiday season.

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I Sometimes Wish For Back-To-School Of Years Gone By

Maybe I should explain. I am not referring to me returning to school, but referencing a desire to have the Canadian retail IT market experience positive growth again during this critical buying period.  Based on NPD’s Weekly Retail Tracking Service during the back-to-school time period, the six weeks beginning the first week of August and concluding with the week after the start of school, the IT market declined  6 percent in revenue, the third straight year of losses.   Even among the top five revenue generating categories – PCs, ink cartridges, toner, memory and printers -  revenue was down.

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Envisioning the Smartwatch’s Future

Earlier this month, Samsung officially announced the Galaxy Gear, their first foray into the growing field of wearable tech.  By all accounts, the Galaxy Gear does everything a smartwatch is supposed to do– provide easy access to the various notifications your smartphone sends out, as well as all of the health metrics we’ve come to expect from fitness devices on the market today.   To accomplish this, the Gear is packed with an abundance of features – from a 1.63” AMOLED touch screen, gyroscope, and accelerometer- to a camera, speaker, and microphone.   Much of the conversation about wearables to-date has centered on their use case and what types of information and updates consumers will find most useful.  However, what if the smartwatch’s killer app isn’t relaying information, but rather collecting it?

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Monster Enters the Tablet Market

In a move that typifies the tablet’s diversified and changing role as a consumption device, Monster, a company known primarily for their audio and cable products, introduced a new line of 7 and 10 inch Android tablets this week, the M7 and M10 that will be exclusive to Walmart.com.
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Keeping the iPhone Ahead

Over the past 18 months, the U.S. market for smartphones is a tale of two new markets: One market for prepaid phones, and one for postpaid phones. Both markets are growing fast and both are picking up momentum, with prepaid sales growth exceeding 125 percent year over year over the last three three-month periods and postpaid sales up 50 percent in the three months ending in July 2013, which is a substantial uptick from the 25 percent growth we saw in the three months ending in April of this year. Despite industry concerns about saturation, it is clear there has never been a better time to be in the smartphone business.
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The Power of Experience – Oculus Rift

With 300,000 attendees, Gamescom, a week-long “trade fair” held in Cologne, Germany, during August, is quite the spectacle.  Two things struck me at the fair: the sheer number of people attending; and the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset for gaming (a la Lawnmower Man).

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Microsoft and Nokia Merger Signals a New Era

With Microsoft’s long rumored purchase of Nokia’s device business finally happening, the stage is set for an incredible range of changes and decisions throughout the technology marketplace.  The blogosphere and Twitterverse are alight with thousands of analysis of what this means and what Microsoft should do.

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The Summer Of The Smartphone Camera

If you’ve seen any advertising from the major smartphone manufacturers over the past 3 months, you’ve probably noticed a new focus on their imaging capabilities. Nokia, HTC and Samsung have all released new phones this summer which feature, and tout an improved suite of cameras and image processing technology (like better low light photos, improved zoom, and more megapixels.) In addition, Apple, though a few weeks away from a new phone release, has run iPhone 5 campaigns throughout the summer featuring people using the phone’s camera in a variety of situations. This recent flurry of advertising attention shows the camera has become the smartphone’s new differentiating feature with other selling points like display resolution, next gen network speed, and big screen sizes now standard on most hero devices.

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Is Everyone At The Beach?

It always seems that the back-to-school season starts just as the school year ends, and for retailers that is the case. Several retailers began advertising school supply deals as early as June to draw in that most important first shopping trip. But for the past five years school supply shopping has gotten off to a slow start due to factors such as a sluggish economy, high gas prices, housing market declines and high unemployment levels. Although gas prices remain high, most factors have improved which means we should expect back-to-school sales to soar, right?
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Taking The Plunge While On Vacation

Last week my family and I spent the entire week in beautiful Algonquin Park.  If you have never had an opportunity to visit this area of Ontario you owe it to yourself to make the trip.  We spend a good portion of our summer vacation camping, and over the years we have developed many “must-happen” events while we are away.  Campfires, hiking, and kayaking are on the top of this list along with reading books.  For me, it would not be vacation unless I have a chance to read three to four books during the week.
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Zoom Zoom!

After a very cool and rainy spring, the heat of summer has finally taken hold. Taking full advantage of the beautiful weather I recently spent a few days with friends at a cottage in Haliburton, Ontario, an annual custom that we have shared over the past 10 years. It’s a beautiful spot, one that allows for many spectacular photo opportunities throughout the day, from the misty morning dawn to spectacularly colourful sunsets.
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Hanging up the Cleats- ESPN’s Exit from 3D

Almost exactly three years ago today I gathered with a couple of colleagues to watch the first match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in 3D. It was a big deal– this was one of the first large-scale sporting events broadcast in 3D and there was a ton of buzz and interest around how the technology was going to impact the TV market. Even then, we questioned how useful the feature would be for everyday viewing, but most felt 3D would appeal to a segment of enthusiasts as well as a larger group who would likely use it for special event viewing.
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What’s Wrong With My Tablet? It Won’t Do My Taxes

Despite others saying the tablet is the PC killer, I remain steadfast in my opinion that tablets should not be considered a complete replacement for the consumer PC. Sure, some things are easier to do on a tablet than on a notebook, and tablets also introduced consumers to casual entertainment (apps), which did not really exist before, and even in our house tablet usage has increased over the past year and our notebook usage has dipped, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
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Springing into the Back-to-School Season

Okay, I might be getting ahead of myself and I can guarantee that few, if any, Canadian consumers are thinking about shopping for the fall Back-to-School session. We still have summer vacations to plan and enjoy before our thoughts turn to equipping our kids for another school year. However, if your business relies on this key buying period, it really is time to begin planning to optimize your success.
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Battle of the Weeks

When I was a kid I remember the excitement that echoed through my house when the newspaper arrived advertising all of the big Boxing Day sales. Sections and sections devoted to huge sales at what seemed like every retailer in the city. My parents scoured that paper as if it contained the meaning of life. And my brothers and I were equally enthralled with the great deals to be had at sporting goods stores, record stores, and electronics stores.
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2012: Canadian Distribution Continues To Deliver Results

Last week I co-hosted an NPD webinar on the State of Distribution alongside Tim Curran, CEO of the Global Technology Distribution Council (GTDC). It was a pleasure to have Tim join us and I trust our Canadian clients and partners found the insights offered useful. I certainly found some of the U.S. figures Tim shared very interesting and highlighted some of the differences across borders.
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A Glimpse of Things to Come? Retail PC Growth in the Canadian Market

After a rather soft year for the Canadian retail PC market, it is encouraging to see that over the last couple of weeks sales are showing positive growth versus last year. Utilizing NPD’s Weekly Tracking Service we see that PC volume sales overall were up 10 percent during the week of January 6, and 4 percent the week of January 13. Two weeks do not make a year; however, after a lackluster holiday season seeing some early positive results provides some optimism for the first quarter of 2013.
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Ultra Big Screens An Opportunity Before, During, And After Super Bowl Week

As we all know, the Super Bowl is primetime for TV sales, especially large screens. According to The NPD Group’s Weekly Tracking Service, Super Bowl week in 2012 was the third largest sales week of the year for TVs 50 inches and larger (behind just Black Friday and the week before Christmas) with sales that week representing a 25 percent increase over 2011. Looking forward to this year’s game, expectations are sales will be just as strong given the overall trend towards bigger screens and higher demand in two decent sized markets that haven’t had Super Bowl fever in more than 10 years.
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