Canadians big on TVs and PCs

MONTREAL — TVs and computers were hot items last year, but digital picture frames and MP3 music players were not.

MONTREAL — TVs and computers were hot items last year, but digital picture frames and MP3 music players were not.

Canadians spent a total of $11.5 billion on consumer electronics overall last year, down slightly from 2009, but TVs and computers were up by nearly 20 per cent as prices for flat-panel screens and netbooks fell, the NPD Group said Wednesday.

“The prices are falling on many of these hot categories that consumers are buying,” said Mark Haar, the NPD Group’s director of consumer electronics in Toronto.

For example, sales of TVs grew 19 per cent in 2010 versus 2009, while prices fell.

Haar said the average price of a 32-inch flat panel TV — the most popular size — was an average of $363 last December, versus about $443 for the same period in 2009. In 2007, the same sized flat panel TV was more than $720.

It’s not uncommon for prices to drop after a technology has been out on the market for awhile and there’s a higher product volume, Haar said.

Sales of computer notebooks, helped by smaller netbooks, were up 17 per cent in 2010 and their prices have also dropped somewhat, the market research group said.

“Those two categories alone are obviously very critical to the consumer electronics industry,” Haar said, adding they accounted for 40 per cent of the total sales in 2010.

Products such as DVD players, home theatres systems, headphones, GPS and stereo systems, printers, computer mice and camcorders were included in consumer electronics sales for 2010. Video games and mobile phones weren’t.

Digital cameras made up seven per cent of total sales, but Haar noted that consumers bought higher end cameras last year.

But digital picture frames were not as “hot” last year, said Haar, noting their popularity several years ago.

Sales of MP3 music players were down about 13 per cent in 2010.

“I think that’s probably a function of the fact that it’s a marketplace where just about everybody has one.”

Looking ahead to 2011, the consumer electronics industry in Canada is expected to grow two to three per cent after two difficult years, Haar said, noting that retail sales have rebounded.

“When things are good, consumers tend to spend more on consumer electronics. If the trends continue, I see that consumer electronics are going to have a reasonably healthy 2011.”