CEA: "Bright Spots" in Audio Sales

First, the bad news: Sales of stand-alone, two-channel audio products declined in the month of June by 1.8% to $164 million, according to recently published statistics from the Consumer Electronics Association.

The decline contributed to an audio system sales drop of 8.6% for the quarter, to $443 million. In keeping with overall economic trends, the slowdown was the first second-quarter drop in system sales since 1998. Audio sales for the first half of the year moved down 1.7% to $855 million. The slight decline could be construed as a positive indicator for the industry's health, in view of the fact that the first half of 2000 generated an all-time record level of audio sales.

The good news: Non-audiophile sectors of the industry enjoyed substantial sales growth, taking up the slack for retailers who offer a wider variety of products. Portable audio products continue to do well; for the month of June, sales of MP3 players were up 124% over the same period a year earlier, and sales of portable CD players rose by 80%. Aftermarket automotive products sell well all year round, but seem to be doing especially well this summer, with sales of mono amplifiers up 44%, accompanied by increased sales of all types of subwoofers. Sales of midrange "packages" were brisk, with sales of 5" to 5¼" drivers up 56% and 6" drivers showing a 36% gain.

Although it may be anathema to some audiophiles, home theater is still the audio industry's alpha dog. Sales of bundled surround sound systems—often called "home-theater-in-a-box"—continue to do very well for speaker makers and retailers alike. Sales of five-speaker systems went up an astounding 667% in June 2001, compared to the same month last year, for a total of $8.4 million. In June 2000, the industry enjoyed only $1.1 million in five-speaker HTIB system sales. Sales of six-speaker systems went up 81% during June 2001, compared to a year earlier. Overall, the HTIB category gained 140% over totals for June 2000.

"Home theater continues to be a rising star in the consumer electronics industry," said CEA president Gary Shapiro. "Particularly encouraging is the strong growth in speaker packages, which is compelling evidence that today's audio consumers are demanding a better sound experience."