Pandemic Accelerated Consumer Media Tech In 2020, Makes For Tough Comps In Next Few Years

On the eve of this week’s CES conference, NPD Group released estimates indicating that the U.S. consumer technology industry expanded 17% during 2020, despite -- or maybe even because of -- the pandemic.

“Propelled by pandemic needs, 2020 consumer tech sales saw the strongest growth in at least seven years,” says Vice President-Industry Advisor Stephen Baker, adding that as a result, 2021 consumer tech sales should be factored for 2020’s surge.

“It is important to recognize that despite year-over-year declines in 2021, these results when compared to 2019 pre-pandemic represent double-digit growth,” he cautioned, adding: “The pandemic has renewed recognition of the critical value of technology to consumers, so while sales comparisons may stagnate, demand on an overall basis for consumer electronics will be higher for the next two years than it would have been without the events of 2020.”



Despite tough comps, NPD projects that consumer tech sales will expand 12% during the first compared vs. the same quarter a year ago, but that even with that “strong start to the year,” 2021 currently is projected to result in a 2% decline vs. full-year 2020.

Moreover, NPD said it already is projecting another 2% decline in 2022 consumer technology sales, and a flat year in 2023. By then, NPD projects the top five consumer tech segments -- notebooks, tablets, headphones, TVs and smartwatches -- will account for more than 55% of the industry, up from 44% in 2017.

“In the latter half of 2021, we expect to see a renewed focus on mobility: charging solutions for phones, thin and light PCs, and the build out of 5g, as consumers begin to return to a more ‘normal’ life,” Baker notes, adding, “We also expect previously less important trends, like improved in-home connectivity, home based work and education, the growing number of screens to enable content consumption, and connected video capabilities in the home, to take hold more permanently as a result of the pandemic.”

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