The Holiday Shopping Outlook - Consumer Electronics Gone Wild

November 13, 2014
By: Bob Wallace

If you thought the year-end holiday shop-a-thon craziness started sometime close to Thanksgiving, think again.

This year’s installment could be crazier as the Consumer Electronics Association’s (News - Alert) (CEA) holiday shopping survey claims overall spending will reach the highest point - $33.76 billion - since it began tracking holiday spending in 1994. That’s up 2.5 percent over 2013.

Get ready for the crush.

 “Consumers are decidedly more optimistic about holiday spending on tech this year versus last year,” said Shawn DuBravac, CEA’s chief economist and senior director of research. “The macroeconomic environment is providing a firmer foundation and holiday consumers are showing a strong inclination to shop this holiday season. The technology trade association’s forecasts point to growth in overall spending as well as spending on tech this holiday season.”

Earlier and Often

The craziness has started sooner. Retail mega-chain Best Buy this week emailed out its 47-page “sneak peek” Black Friday (News - Alert) door busters sales flier Tuesday that offers deals on virtually every type of consumer electronic product – and more.

Whether its smartphones, TVs, computers, cameras, movies, video games and/or accessories you’re looking for, the Best Buy (News - Alert) guide is designed to whet the appetites of those who shop in stores and online at a time when shoppers were discussing the earlier opening of many stores on Thanksgiving.

In what was likely a local/regional version, the front page featured a 55-inch Ultra HD 4K TV from Samsung for $899 and a 50-inch 1080p LED TV from Panasonic (News - Alert) for $199. Prices are valid November 27-29.

Services Too

Broadband service providers have joined the fray this week offering bigger incentives to switch providers and buy additional services. Verizon is up to a $400 gift card for those who move to a FiOS triple play with a two-year contract and Comcast (News - Alert) is offering its triple-play customers 25% off the monthly price off an Xfinity Home service for 12 months.

And this is just the beginning with more retailer and service providers expected to vie for consumers’ year-end holiday shopping dollars with deals that range from limited quantity/limited time to price cuts that only attract “cost-unconscious” shoppers with money to blow.

Remember that the CEA covers devices, but not services, software, etc.

Last year, the CEA revealed survey results that showed tablets were the most coveted gifts. They retained the stop spot in 2014. The below five items represent just over half of all expected shopping revenues during the holiday period, according to the group.

To Receive…

CEA’s Top Holiday Tech Wish List: 

The products that consumers most want to receive as gifts:

1) Tablets

2) Notebook/Laptop computers

3) TVs

4) Smartphones

5) Videogame consoles

…to Give

The CEA claims 63 percent of U.S. adults plan to give the gift of technology this year. The standings however, are tight with no single device head and shoulders above the rest. Headphones and earbuds (27 and 26 percent, respectively) will be the most popular CE devices consumers give this season. Tablets (26 percent) also will be popular this year, followed by notebook/laptop computers (25 percent), TVs (24 percent) and smartphones (23 percent).

What’s New (Emerging)

 “Emerging product categories, which just a few years ago were too small to track, are now listed as products that one in five consumers (19 percent) are likely to purchase as a gift,” the CEA analysis read. The group claims one in 10 consumers is likely to purchase a fitness device (10 percent), a smart device for the home (9 percent) or a smartwatch (8 percent) as a holiday gift.

 A Breakout Year(s)?

“The appetite for tech is strong for the 2014 holiday season,” said Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis, CEA. “Expect to see growing consumer awareness and interest in emerging tech categories, including health and fitness technology, as industry giants have entered the playing field.”

Koenig added: “These products will make their first big splash this holiday season, setting up 2015 as a breakout year for emerging segments like smartwatches and smart home technologies.”

A Web Warning – “Delivery” Gone Wild


Judging from last year’s problems with carriers delivering gifts after Christmas or simply cancelling orders they couldn’t get to in time, consumers might want to at least focus on the issues associated with online holiday shopping they can understand.

For example, shopping earlier is generally better. Also, take a close look at the shipping intervals quoted (usually 3-5 business days) by e-tailers for delivery of purchased items and read any/all fine print.

Why? A closer look shows that in many cases, the 3-5 days quoted starts the time the carrier gets the order until the time it delivers the purchased items. In many cases, the shopper’s clock starts ticking earlier because consumers aren’t aware of other steps that precede the carrier taking possession of the ordered items.

In the Beginning

Paying for your item online is just the beginning. E-tailers must pass the orders it receives to warehouses that could be located anywhere. Once the order is received, it must then be filled (if the items are truly in stock) and then handed off to the carrier for delivery.

That’s when the quoted 3-5 business day shipping interval often begins. Also keep in mind that the process is beholden to fluctuating logistics, that last year resulted in carriers in greater Boston grabbing up rental trucks to try and keep up with delivery demand.

Services like Amazon Prime, which offers free, two-day delivery of most items as part of an annual subscription that includes streaming TV, would seem safer.

A Web Welcome

This season, for the first time, the CEA’s study of purchase patterns found over half (54 percent) of consumers are likely to purchase CE products online this year, up from 45 percent last year. Taking that one step farther, the group reports that “26 percent of consumers indicate they are likely to purchase more CE products online this year compared to last year.

However, the group reminded, “traditional retail channels remain vital for tech gift purchases with 77 percent of consumers likely to purchase from a brick-and-mortar location.” 

Help!

The CEA also came up with stats on the shopping process that relate to tech. According to the group, 67 percent of consumers who plan to spend money on CE “are likely to use a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet, to help them shop”. Interestingly, it added, “those likely to use mobile devices to help them shop for CE plan to spend more money on CE this holiday season.”

Overtime

As has been the case for many years, the retail frenzy that is the yearend shopping craziness doesn’t end in late December, but extends beyond the holidays as merchants take extreme measures to unload the inventory that didn’t move at initial price levels and with extra incentives.

This probably won’t help on the gifting front, but if the purchase is all about pricing, the waiting isn’t really the hardest part. That’s amplified given the gigantic and seemingly ever-increasing amount of gift cards given out for the holidays. They aren’t all for CE device stores, but they can simplify gifting.

Shop responsibly!




Edited by Stefania Viscusi