Spending on consumer electronics, like a lot of aspects of the economy, has taken some strange turns in this coronavirus pandemic year of 2020.
While things were dark in the early days of the pandemic, they had recovered by April, with the NPD Group saying in April that consumer tech sales had surged, especially with the sudden influx of work-from-home mandates leading to a surge in sales of computers, accessories and other home office products. Sales of TVs also saw a surge in the spring, with many realizing they would be spending more time at home for awhile.
Now, a new forecast says those robust sales are likely to continue through the holidays.
Sales of consumer hardware are expected to reach $135 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter, which comprises the holiday shopping season, the Consumer Technology Association said this week, in its 27th annual Consumer Technology Holiday Purchase Patterns study. That figure represents a 10 percent increase from the pre-pandemic holiday season in 2019.
The quarter will include the arrivals of several long-awaited products, including the first 5G-capable iPhones, and also new video game consoles from Sony and Microsoft.
According to CTA, as cited by Billboard and Dealerscope, two thirds of respondents say they expect to upgrade this holiday season to a 5G-capable smartphone. The next most-popular categories include laptops, video game consoles, TVs and wearable devices.
CTA found that 81 percent of those surveyed are either just as likely or more likely to purchase tech products this year. In addition, with a lack of holiday travel amid the pandemic, many customers will have more money to spend on other things.
Services are also expected to get some traction for the holidays, with 70 percent of shoppers expecting to purchase at least one subscription to a service, whether audio, gaming or video streaming.
“The 2020 holiday season will bring economic, safety and political unknowns—but the consumer desire to give and receive technology gifts is certain,” Lesley Rohrbaugh, director of market research, said when the study was announced.
“With consumers forgoing budgets for travel and experiences this year, more dollars will go towards technology gifts that support connection, productivity, health and entertainment, as technology has been a critical asset to so many during the ongoing pandemic.”
CTA, in addition to lobbying on behalf of the industry and releasing research, is the owner and producer of the annual International CES, the massive trade show that is usually held in Las Vegas but will take place virtually in January. The organizers had originally planned to host the show in person but ultimately switched to a virtual format.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.