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Consumer electronics were a big hit of the holiday shopping season last year, and it probably won't be any different this year, with flat-panel TVs, notebook computers, and digital cameras expected to top many lists for Santa, a market research firm said Tuesday.
Driving consumers' love affair with flat-panel sets are falling prices and ever growing screen sizes, The NPD Group said. Besides the initial sale, retailers will benefit from wall mounting, installations, high-definition service, and other extras that often accompany the popular technology.
Notebook computers are also expected to do well because of lower prices and lots of options to personalize the PCs. Options will range from casing colors to larger screens and designs and imprinted cases, NPD said.
Digital cameras are a returning old favorite that continue to offer consumers something new with feature and design upgrades that are being offered in combination with drastically lower prices, the research firm said. In addition, the devices are being offered in many new styles and colors.
While it seems like everyone who wants one has an MP3 player, the new iPod Nano is expected to sell well because it offers more storage and video playback, a new feature, for the same price as the older models. The new iPod Touch has already started out strong as the first in the product line with wireless connectivity and Apple's innovative touch-screen technology.
Among the new consumer favorites, global positioning systems (GPS) are expected to be one of the stars of the season. The navigation systems are getting smarter and sporting bigger screens, and pricing has been dramatically reduced, NPD said.
Easy-to-use digital picture frames also are expected to be very popular as consumers look for practical ways to share all the family photos that have been locked away in computer hard drives. Also helping to drive popularity is the low-cost of the frames, which are often less than $100.
Finally, consumers are expected to buy lots of additional storage products in order to back up old videos and pictures, and to save new photos and other digital content, NPD said.
Three out of four U.S. consumers are hoping that special someone brings them at least one digital lifestyle product for the holiday season, with high-definition TVs leading a top-10 wish list of products, according to a study released this month by the Solutions Research Group. The remaining top 10 items in descending order were Windows notebooks, digital cameras, Windows desktop computers, GPS car navigation systems, cell phones, digital video cameras, the Nintendo Wii, Sony PS3, and Blu-ray or HD-DVD high-definition DVD players.
Last year, consumer electronics were the biggest sellers of the holiday shopping season, accounting for 42% of overall sales, according to NPD. Retail sales from the week of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, through the week ending Dec. 23 grew 6.5% from the same period the year before to $8.75 billion.
The hottest items were led by LCD TVs, followed by digital still cameras, notebook computers, MP3 players and plasma TVs, respectively. Spending on LCD TVs soared by 109% over 2005 to $924 million.
This year, the majority of retailers plan to offer free-shipping deals to online holiday shoppers, a recognition that the expensive promotion is the most effective in luring customers, according to BizRate Research. The most popular shipping promotion will be free shipping with conditions, which means customers must purchase a certain number of items or spend a minimum dollar amount to get the offer.