Shipments are not sales, seems like a pretty simple concept to grasp, but it’s apparent from the hysteria that has erupted over IDC’s release of their Q1 tablet shipment data that most of the blogosphere still doesn’t get the difference. We detailed this phenomenon two years ago and still no one can get it right, so I will say it again shipments are not sales - and therefore they present only a partial account of the success or failure of a product or an item. Shipments are important and course NPD recognizes this by providing supply side shipment data through NPD DisplaySearch but without sales you just have inventory, and that does no one any good.
I admit to being biased. I work at a company that tracks actual sales results and I spent 10 years at retail. I have always lived and breathed sales results. And while shipments are a great tool (and I worked at a place that tracked those as well), the final verdict of success or failure of an item is sales. If a consumer puts down their hard earned money for a product you can be sure that they saw some spark of value or usefulness to their lives in that device. That is why it is shocking to me that many folks in this industry don’t understand the difference between sales and shipments – and often confuse them in the most basic ways. The latest example is a report this week in DigiTimes and repeated all across the web that the Barnes & Noble Nook out-shipped the Kindle in March. Note I said, and DigiTmes said as well, shipped, not sold. This has caused shock and disbelief throughout the blog community. We will now hear for a few days about how the Kindle is doomed; the iPad is killing it, and various other conspiracy theories.