Black Friday influenced audio sales, says GfK’s business group director for CE Nigel Catlow

GfK on the state of the audio sector

The audio sector is a fast-changing area according to GfK’s business group director for consumer electronics Nigel Catlow. Here he rounds up some of the market’s highs and lows…

The audio sector is a mixed bag at present, with some sectors showing spectacular growth whilst others head in the opposite direction.

Leaving aside the revival of premium turntables and vinyl, the strongest growth area is reserved for sectors that are most impacted by newer technologies, especially wireless technology.

Multi-room audio systems and soundbars are two of the many growth areas both driven by wireless technology. Whilst their growth is in contrast to decline in traditional audio systems and home theatre, the net effect taking all audio systems and all home theatre/soundbars into account is positive.

On the face of it, a six per cent value decline for docking mini speakers in the latest quarter seems disappointing, but here the effect is the same as audio systems, in that traditional cradle docking speakers are in decline whilst Bluetooth speakers are in growth.

Back in 2012, cradle docking speakers made up 79 per cent of the market volume. In February 2015 data, this figure had shrunk to just 11 per cent. On an annual level the value of the total docking and mini speakers category has grown to just over £140 million in consumer value.

This total figure hides a number of contrasts, for example the non-docking part has fallen by almost a fifth, whilst the cradle-dock-only sector has more than halved.

On the positive side the wireless sector has grown by close to 40 per cent. It has hit an annual value of more than £100 million for the first time and forms the majority of the category. More than two-thirds of this docking category value is made up by Bluetooth technology.

In terms of models, the top ten are dominated by some strongly branded products which ignore the traditional consumer electronics/IT love of model numbers but opt for names instead.

The largest single audio market now is the headphone sector with a consumer market value in excess of £230 million.

Black Friday and the days surrounding it have been extremely influential in the past, with the sales value of products including microphones up 75 per cent in November compared to November 2013. However, the trend to models with a microphone is an ongoing one.

February comparisons show non-mic models are down by 12 per cent in value, whilst models with a mic are up by 38 per cent compared to the previous February.

Within form factors, the market is split roughly equally in value between wired in ear and wired headband: both had just over 40 per cent of market value in February 2015.

The bulk of the remainder of the market is made up of Bluetooth headphones, which is a fast growing sector with now over a tenth of market value.

Nigel Catlow is the business group director for consumer electronics at analyst GfK.

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