Feb. 13, 2012 at 1:30 PM ET
Best Buy was the top retailer for consumer tech last year, and Apple the No. 1 consumer electronics brand for the second year in a row, according to NPD’s Retail and Consumer tracking services and Mobile Phone Track.
"Among the top five brands Apple was the only one to experience a sales increase, posting a 36 percent rise over 2010. By the critical fourth quarter Apple accounted for 19 percent of all sales dollars, almost twice as much as number two Hewlett-Packard," which like the other top five brands, showed a decline in sales, the research firm said.
Overall, U.S. consumer technology hardware and consumable sales fell a half-percent last year compared with 2010, ending 2011 with nearly $144 billion in sales, The NPD Group said.
Nearly 60 percent of all sales in 2011 were driven by the top five categories; PCs, TVs, tablets/e-readers, mobile phones and video game hardware, according to NPD’s Retail and Consumer tracking services and Mobile Phone Track. PCs (notebooks and desktops) generated the most revenue with nearly $28 billion in sales, accounting for almost 20 percent of sales, but that figure was a decline of 3 percent from 2010. Tablets/e-readers were the clear winner in 2011, nearly doubling sales to $15 billion in 2011.
“U.S. hardware sales growth is becoming harder and harder to achieve at the broad industry level,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, on the company's blog. “Sales outside of the top five categories fell by 8 percent in 2011 as consumers shifted spending from older technologies to a narrow range of products.”
At the tech retailer level, Best Buy was followed by Wal-Mart, second, and Apple, third. Staples and Amazon tied for fourth place.
"Sales through online, direct mail and TV shopping channels jumped 7 percent and accounted for 24 percent of all sales, up from 22 percent in 2010," NPD said. "Sales through these non-retail channels captured 25 percent of industry revenue in the fourth quarter of 2011."
Baker said retail stores "still face serious challenges in 2012 as volumes in the traditional CE (consumer electronics) categories, which once carried these stores, continue to slide."
The good news, he said: "A large majority" of the sales of phones and tablets/e-readers "have mostly been driven through in-store experiences."