CES reports rebound in electronics sales

Global spending, up 13% in '10, should continue growth

The Consumer Electronics Assn. unveiled rosy 2010 figures for consumer electronics sales, plus an optimistic projection for 2011 — while identifying several trends with far-reaching implications for the entertainment industry.

The org’s presentation, part of the prelude to this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, states flatly, “Global retail sales of technology products have clearly rebounded.” Sales revenues are expected to approach $1 trillion in 2011 and bolster the global economy.

Global spending on consumer electronics was up 13% in 2010 to $873 billion worldwide, rebounding from a 9% slump in 2009. The CEA projects sales to surge another 10% in 2011 to $964 billion.

The slump was not quite so severe nor the recovery so robust in North America, where sales slumped 8% in 2009, and 10% in 2010. In Western Europe, the slump was a full 10%, and sales increased only 8% last year.

But Western Europe, traditionally the dominant market in electronics sales, saw 23% growth in revenue from sales in 2010. North American and China trailed at 15%. The CEA said revenue growth exceeded expectations in all regions.

The org attributed last year’s growth to a confluence of factors: connectivity, mobility and personalization among consumer trends; embedded Internet, wireless and 3D among the technology trends; and price deflation and the growth of emerging markets among economic trends.

Smart phones and portable computers have proven an area of particular growth. Smart phone sales were up 51% in 2010 and are expected to be up 59% in 2011. Portable computers sales were up 23%, and a 26% gain is projected this year.

In television, the org quipped, “The world is increasingly flat.” LCD televisions were a hot product, up 21% year on year, and while only 3% growth is expected in that area in 2011, it is still considered a growth center. Plasma TV sales are expected to shrink 1% in the year to come. Traditional television-set sales are shrinking dramatically.

Blu-ray players are also picking up steam both in units sold and revenues. Blu-ray went from 14 million to 23 million units sold year on year, with 30 million units projected for 2011 —  half of that in North America, which is emerging as the dominant market for the format. Revenues from Blu-ray are also surging. Meanwhile DVD player sales appear to have peaked and are slowly declining, and revenues from DVD player sales are falling more quickly, as the players become low-price items.

Stand-alone media players, such as MP3 players, saw a slight decline in sales, down 1.5%, perhaps reflecting a shift toward combined smart phone/media players. Videogame console sales were down by $1.7 billion worldwide.

In 2011, the combination of Asia and South America is projected to have consumer electronics sales nearly equal to Western Europe and North America combined. Western Europe and North America have traditionally have had far higher sales than the South American and Asian markets.