One of my favourite scenes from “Wayne’s World” is when Wayne, Garth, and their two buddies belted out Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” while driving through the night streets of Aurora, Illinois in their AMC Pacer. We all do it – fantasize ourselves as rock stars, singing at the top of our lungs in the safe confines of our automobile. That was true 50 years ago and it’s no different today. While the technology of both audio devices and audio media has changed dramatically in just a few short years, according to NPD’s Audio Consumption in Canada study, the car is still the most popular place for Canadians to tune in to their favourite songs.
One of my first tech coverage areas as a young(er) analyst in 2009 was the home automation market. As I studied up on the space- the major products, companies, and consumer segments most willing to purchase the systems – I had a feeling that the connected home was the future. Our home appliances, utilities, climate control, and entertainment would all soon be programmable through a single interface and come to know our habits and activities. The momentum I felt in the market suggested this transformation would happen en masse, and that improved broadband speeds and increased mobile phone ownership would be the main catalysts. Then, early in 2010 the technology universe went tablet crazy, and the momentum in home automation market suddenly went on standby.
Sony announced today that it is shutting down its worldwide PC business and selling it off to a Japanese investment firm that will maintain the business in that country. Of course, the trends in the traditional PC business have been difficult for the last few years, but in general we believe Sony’s problems (to the extent there really were problems) are more self-made than a function of the industry troubles.
Yesterday Google announced that they were selling the Motorola handset business they acquired just a couple of years ago to Lenovo. While most of the analysis to date has concentrated on how this represents a retreat from the hardware business by Google (and it does – read more from Eddie Hold) we also think an equal amount of attention should be paid to the potential this creates for setting up another strong global hardware company.
I grew up on vinyl. While I didn’t appreciate it at the time, the sound of those records was truly magnificent, even with the odd snap, crackle, and pop. When I moved out of my parents’ house, my number one priority, well ahead of which TV to purchase (at the time 27 inches was considered large), was finding the best sound system that I could afford, which unfortunately was not nearly as much as I would have liked to invest.
Every year the technology industry introduces the next great thing to keep the industry, and the consumers engaged. Today, it’s all about wearable devices. At NPD’s CES reception at Treasure Island, NPD’s analysts sat down to discuss these devices.
From Internet-connected toothbrushes all the way to thermostats that know your daily routine, personalization seems to be one of the recurring themes so far at CES. The 2014 CES Press Day (affectionately dubbed Day 0) featured numerous innovations aimed at making technology devices more personal- either through branding and design or features that make the user more recognizable to the device. I took note of a couple announcements today that are surely just the first of many more “lifestylized” products to be exhibited at the show.
By now you’ve likely read that this year’s holiday shopping season got off to a great start. According to The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service, consumer technology sales grew 10 percent over Black Friday, breaking a string of two consecutive years where sales growth was negative. One of the feel-good stories so far from the holiday shopping season has been soundbars which, according to The NPD Group’s Weekly Tracking Service, grew 74 percent (units) Black Friday week and more than doubled the following week compared to 2012. At first blush, one might think doorbusters and outrageous discounts may have driven the volume growth, however ASPs during Black Friday actually increased 8 percent. So what’s the story?
NPD just reported a sales increase of 10 percent for Thanksgiving week as interesting promotions, some solid category performances, and nice results from some mid-size categories helped propel results to a more than $400 million increase in revenue over the previous three years.
As we begin another holiday shopping season and contemplate gifts to give to our friends and family, one product category, seemingly perfect in a variety of ways for gift giving could be poised for a good holiday. Detachable lens cameras.
Black Friday in Canada has come and gone and what I saw and experienced reminded me of going to a concert to see one of my favorite bands. The anticipation builds for weeks before, and the day of the concert it’s all you can think about. You get there and the excitement is everywhere. However, as I’m sure many others have experienced, if there is an opening act you can sense the restlessness from those in attendance (which typically is a much smaller audience) as they wait for the main act to take the stage.
Savvy Black Friday shoppers know their smartphone and tablet are the best tools for navigating the stores, crowds, and deals this weekend. This year, several retailers including Best Buy and Walmart beefed up their mobile and social strategies to get the word out, especially on Thursday night.
As we mentioned in an earlier post one of the defining events of this year’s Black Friday promotions was the active participation of Apple and its core product lines (iPad, iPhone, and MacBook). Almost every major Apple retail partner was offering considerable savings on a range of Apple devices, in ways that we have infrequently seen, and Apple has rarely permitted. Putting aside the silly question of whether a gift card with purchase is really a discount (it is and it is seen that way by the consumer who are pretty self-aware about those type of Jedi mind tricks) there were real and substantial savings on the entire Apple line-up. And the question is, why now? And to what purpose?
Maybe not the end of the world actually, but definitely the end of Black Friday. And interestingly it is not ending in the fire and brimstone of mobile and online shopping, but it is being supplanted by something more consumer friendly; earlier start times.
Last year, I proclaimed Black Friday 2013 would be the year of the “After Dinner Doorbuster” and at my turkey dinner last night, the major debate centered on the impact the early store openings would have on sales this year. Would it appeal to a different demographic of shopper while turning off others? Would consumers be confused about how to best time their shopping with stores set to open so soon after dinner? My colleague Steve Baker noted large crowds during his store visits in Northern Virginia, mine outside The Bronx in New York were solid, but smaller than I expected.
It is hard to know what to call this year’s holiday shopping expedition. Black Friday? Black Thanksgiving? But whatever it is, the extension of the holiday shopping kick-off that used to be on the Friday after Thanksgiving is likely to now be permanently moved to Thanksgiving evening (or even the day itself) if the apparent response we observed tonight plays itself out in the sales results, which we will compile in the next couple of weeks.
Like many this week, I’m preparing for two holidays. The first is Thanksgiving which I’ll spend with my children and extended family, and the second is Black Friday when I’ll join thousands of my closest friends at crowded retail stores gawking at the insane deals on consumer electronics.
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.
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.
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.