Consumer electronics market weakening across Europe, but some positive trends


Berlin’s mega consumer electronics show, IFA,  is still underway where companies such as Samsung (still reeling from its legal woes with Apple), Microsoft, Philips, Sony, Logitech, etc, are exhibiting all their exciting new gadgets to much fanfare.  However, it looks like the electronics sector is being acutely affected by the ongoing financial crisis as the market for consumer electronics has suffered across Europe.  At IFA, GfK presented a comprehensive barometer of the sector in Europe, highlighting that sales of consumer electronics are 10% lower in than the same period last year across W Europe’s six largest markets (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK).
Some categories and markets fairing better
There are, however, some positive flickers coming from some product categories, such as smart TVs, high-quality sound bars, headphones (up 11% in value) and compact system cameras.  In addition, Germany, where things have been going marginally better economically, has shown signs of life as sales of televisions (likely due to the Euro Football Championship) and some other electronic items have increased 8.5%.   One product area where both German and French consumers demonstrated some enthusiasm for was, interestingly, for home movie theater products, which, unlike the rest of western Europe, grew in 4% in these markets.
Smartphone phones cannibalizing various devices
I’m sure that everyone saw this coming…  Sales of MP3/MP4 players declined a whopping 17% in the first half of 2012 year-on-year, largely due to the increasing dominance of smartphones.  In order to counter this dynamic, manufacturers are now slashing prices on portable audio devices as GfK found that the average price across W Europe dropped from 90€ in H1 2011 to 84€ in H1 2012.  Electronic devices for cars have also shown signs of rapid decline due to the growth of smartphones as “in-car electronics market” declined 19%, which includes car radios (declining 22%) and satellite navigation systems (declining 20%).  Although the market for standard digital cameras declined 7% year-on-year due in-part to smartphones, the market for compact, high-quality digital cameras, such as those with interchangeable lenses (increasing 3% in H1 and a whopping 28% year-on-year in June), appears to be doing well.
In wrapping up, GfK stated that although the environment has been quite difficult, it’s clear that “manufacturers of high-quality, niche technical products are among the winners”.  More specifically, consumers are actively looking for products that facilitate an integrated user experience, such as intelligent software for smart TVs that enable the consumer to seamlessly move between devices or products that seamlessly connect smartphones and tablets with speakers or headphones.  As this sector evolves so rapidly with all types of devices moving quickly into obsolescence, continual innovation is clearly the only way to stay relevant and ahead of the game.