U.S. Consumer Tech Sales Down In September

Oct 24, 2008 (12:10 PM EDT)

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U.S. consumer technology sales at retail stores fell slightly in September, but not to the extent feared by some industry watchers, a market research group said.

Sales dropped 2% last month, compared with the same period a year ago, which was also a weak month, NPD Group reported. In September 2007, sales fell 1% from the same month the year before.

Nevertheless, last month's decline indicated some weakening from the back-to-school-driven 2% increase in August, NPD said. "The industry struggled a little this month. It's to be expected when the economy is slowing, but the consumers who can spend will continue to," NPD analyst Stephen Baker said in a statement released Thursday.

Categories still attracting consumer dollars include flat-panel TVs, which saw unit sales up 20% in September from a year ago, NPD said. Unit sales of flat panels larger than 40 inches, which are the more expensive sets, increased by almost 30% and the amount of money taken in by retailers rose by 10%.

Notebook computers saw a 9% increase in revenue on unit growth of slightly more than 12%. Those numbers were down only slightly from August's 10% revenue increase and 15% unit gain.

"These key categories are continuing to perform, and tellingly, these growth segments are delivering faster unit growth than dollar growth while still maintaining average selling prices of $800 to $900," Baker said. "Growth is slowing, but in a year with few new products to drive excitement these high-priced staples of the technology industry continue to be in demand."

NPD tracks sales at retail stores only. The numbers do not include online sales.