It’s a Rocky Run-Up to Holiday for the U.S. Consumer Tablet Market, Reports NPD

Port Washington, NY, November 13, 2014 – Despite overall positive industry momentum during the 2014 back-to-school season (BTS), and a 3.5 percent increase in unit sales, the U.S. tablet market underperformed the entire consumer electronics market, posting an 8 percent revenue decline while the industry delivered flat revenue. In the 8 weeks since BTS ended sales have materially worsened, with units down 16 percent and dollars down 18 percent, according to The NPD Group’s Weekly Retail Tracking Service.

“Most of the marginal tablet success that occurred during the back-to-school season was driven by promotions, and the weeks in the interim period have served to illustrate the crisis in the tablet market,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis, The NPD Group, Inc. “The slowdown has been pervasive, and even the launch of the new iPads at the end of this period has not served to reignite sales growth. With the holidays fast approaching, the potential for a positive tablet sales season appears grim.”

Tablet sales have declined across all form factors and operating systems. Android tablet sales are down 16 percent in units and 22 percent in dollars since the end of the back-to-school season, iOS sales declined 16 percent in units and 20 percent in dollars, and Windows tablet sales dropped 23 percent in units, but increased 11 percent in dollars (driven by the success of the Surface Pro 3), compared to this period in 2013.

Android tablet sales have been the hardest hit over the last 8 weeks as the market for small-screen products has deteriorated - the mainstream 7 inch size experienced unit sales declines of 40 percent. The biggest shift has been in the large-screen (9 inch and above) Android market, where there has been an explosion of entry-level large-screen tablets propelling the unit share of under $200 products from 15 percent in 2013 to 49 percent over the last 8 weeks.

“The extraordinarily tough comparisons that will come up during the holiday season, after last year’s groundbreaking pricing for both iPads and small-size Android tablets, will keep the tablet market in a precarious position through the holidays,” added Baker. “While tablets still generate enormous traffic and unit volumes, the days of easy growth and native demand are now gone. Tablets will need to compete with a more aggressive PC market, and a growing large-screen smartphone market, for attention this holiday season. It is not entirely clear whether tablets are up to that task.”

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