High End Exceeded $1 Billion in 1997, CEMA Says

One billion dollars in 1997---thatÆs the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association's first-ever estimate of the high-end industry's factory-sales volume. The number could be as high as $1.4 billion, according to a CEMA projection for the entire industry based on sales data of a representative sample of 32 companies. The results of the survey were published March 23 on CEMA's website.

The projection is a first for the association. "It's not the first time we've sampled companies [for their sales volume], but it's the first time we've projected the entire industry's sales," said a CEMA spokeswoman.

The high-end industry consists of many small, closely held companies that are characteristically reticent to release figures to the press. For that reason, the industry's sales volume and importance are often underestimated. CEMA's sample for its most recent report was the largest ever, and its estimates are therefore the most accurate figures available.

In 1997, sales volume for the 32 sampled companies rose 7% to $256 million, including exports, which went up 10% to $73 million despite the beginnings of economic difficulties in Asia.

Typically, high-end companies export 40% of their output, half of which goes to Asia (the other half goes to Europe). CEMA's figures indicate that the High End's sales growth didnÆt suffered terribly in 1997 because of Asian economic woes. Continuing problems indicate that 1998 may prove to be quite a different story.

Some companies that participated in CEMA's survey performed well above the average. One was Conrad-Johnson Design, whose vice president, Lew Johnson, is also chairman of CEMA's Specialty Audio Subdivision. C-J enjoyed "an almost 25% increase in business in 1997," said Johnson.