Spending on Consumers Electronics a Mixed Bag in 2011

Spending on consumer electronics in the United States slipped 0.5 percent in 2011 to $144 billion, according to market researcher The NPD Group, but there were some interesting changes involved, said a CNET report.

NPD’s data confirms that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) was, for the second year running, the top consumer electronics brand in the country, and also reveals that, while in-store sales were down 2.5 percent in 2011, online sales soared 7 percent.

Personal computers, televisions, e-readers, tablets, mobile phones, and video game hardware were the top five areas for spending in electronics last year, comprising roughly 60 percent of total sales in 2011, according to the report.

PCs, including notebooks and desktops, led the pack with almost $28 billion in revenue, or about 20 percent of total sales. However, revenue was actually down 3 percent last year from 2010, a figure that can be at least partially explained by sales of tablets and e-readers, which nearly doubled in 2011 to $15 billion.

“U.S. hardware sales growth is becoming harder and harder to achieve at the broad industry level,” said NPD’s Stephen Baker in a statement. “Sales outside of the top five categories fell by 8 percent in 2011 as consumers shifted spending from older technologies to a narrow range of products.”

Apple saw a 36 percent increase in sales from 2010, and accounted for 19 percent of all electronics sales in the fourth quarter. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), the second-biggest seller, brought in roughly half what Apple did in sales. Among the top five brands, Apple alone saw sales last year exceed 2010 figures.

Most retailers did a replay of 2010, with Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) on top, followed by Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Apple. Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) tied for fourth place. Online, direct mail, and TV shopping sales jumped 22 percent last year, accounting for 24 percent of all sales.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gina Smith at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com