Traditional computer retailers must ‘adapt or die’, says GfK

‘Bluetooth audio devices are cannibalising PC speaker sales’

Sales of wireless Bluetooth speakers and connected audio devices are booming – and they’re eating into the traditional PC speaker market.

For the 12 months leading up to February 2014, wireless mini speakers grew by 73 per cent in value and 166 per cent in volume, according to data from analyst GfK.

They also came down in cost during that time – falling from £114 to £74 on average.

Comparatively, volume sales of speakers that don’t have wireless or cradle docking dipped 23 per cent, with value sales falling 39 per cent during the period.

Connected audio – for example, wireless speakers, multi-room streaming and Sonos-style products – now represents almost half of the home systems market. This consists of traditional Hi-Fi, mini/micro systems and home theatre such as surround sound.

In addition, two thirds of the docking mini speaker market is now wireless.

“We’re now seeing everything shifting towards wireless – Bluetooth is the technology that’s growing,” GfK consumer electronics account manager Lucy Twist told PCR.

“It was primarily the high end before, but now a lot of people are bringing out sub-£100 or even sub-£50 Bluetooth speakers.

“These sales will definitely continue to grow over the next 12 months. Bluetooth is going to be the driving factor for audio.

“One benefit of Bluetooth speakers is that you can use them with multiple devices – not just your smartphone but your PC as well – so they’re kind of cannibalising some of the sales of that market. It’s only the cheaper end of the market that’s managing to stay afloat in terms of PC speakers.

“It’s all about wireless and products syncing up. [Traditional PC retailers must] adapt or die.”

Sound bars are also performing strongly. In the 12 months to February 2014, sales grew by 113 per cent in terms of value and 128 per cent in volume.

In addition, 62 per cent of the sound bar market last year was made up of devices capable of wireless streaming, for example streaming from a smartphone to a sound bar.

The devices are also getting cheaper, with sub-£100 Bluetooth devices now becoming readily available.

"Sound bars are the star child of the consumer electronics market at the moment,” added Twist.

“Firms have been bundling sound bars with their TVs as an incentive to increase the quality of audio.

“As TVs get fancier, the audio quality gets worse because the bezels are really thin, so the sound cavity is smaller. So that’s why sound bars have been doing so well.”

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