Tuesday, 25 October 2011 14:01

Demand for digital gadgets holding up, says Canon


Australia's love affair with digital technology isn't fading, despite our reportedly reduced appetite for spending.

Canon's pointing to "market competition" as a driver for price reductions that have seen Australian consumer technology revenues to drop while volume remains strong, but presumably the relatively strong dollar (currently worth $US1.04) has something to do with it.

Commenting on the latest Canon Consumer Lifestyle Index, Canon Australia's consumer imaging director Jason McLean said "The latest results show that, despite reportedly low consumer sentiment for the period, strong consumer demand for technology saw volume sales keep pace with the record numbers achieved in first-half 2009 when a raft of stimulus funds hit the market.

"Market competition has seen a $470 million decline in sales value, saving the Australian consumer an average of $72 per device during the first six months of the year." The report shows that average selling prices fell in all of the product categories covered by the report.

So what are we buying in increasing volumes? PVR sales numbers are up a whopping 53% (off an admittedly small base) as more and more people realise the advantages these devices have over older types of recording technology, and as the digital switchover progresses.

Digital SLR camera sales volumes have increased by 18%, suggesting a growing number of Australians are after something better than a compact camera. A desire for better quality was found to be the main reason for purchasing a new camera (whether buyers achieve better results is open question), with digital cameras already found in more than 80% of homes. Overall, digital camera sales volumes slipped by 1% year-on-year.

What else is down? And what's up? Find out on page 2.



The other segments with declining volumes were games consoles (down 17%, presumably because there hasn't been a major console launch for some time), digital media players (down 16%, possibly due to the wider use of smartphones), plasma TVs (down 16%, perhaps because of a switch in sentiment to LCD models), digital camcorders (down 6%, possibly due to the video capability of DLSR cameras and smartphones), compact photo printers (down 5% - are we sharing photos electronically instead of printing them?) and DVD recorders (down 3%, more than offset by the growth in PVRs).

Single function inkjets and multifunction devices both saw increases in sales volumes (of 1% and 2% respectively). DVD players were up 4% (largely due to Blu-ray players), and LCD TV sales grew by 14% (which the report explains in terms of lower prices as well the promotion of 3D and smart TVs).

Perhaps the most surprising finding was that PC sales volume was up 15% year-on-year. That category covers desktops, notebooks and netbooks, but not tablets.

"The strong volume numbers show that for consumer technology Australian retail is alive and well and consumers are taking advantage of the competitive pricing, deals and support to be found in their local stores," said Mr McLean. "We expect the Australian market to continue to adjust as strong local competition and global forces play out heading into Christmas."

The study also looked at the way people network their devices. Unfortunately, it concentrated on Wi-Fi rather than including wired and wireless devices - anecdotal evidence suggests a significant number of people use Ethernet (either directly or via HomePlug AV) to connect TVs or set-top boxes to their home networks, even if they use Wi-Fi for other purposes.

Where Netgear's recent research found 8% of Australians actually connect their Internet-enabled TVs, the Canon/GfK survey puts the figure at 20% just for Wi-Fi. GfK officials noted this was up from 12% in the first half of 2010.

The Canon Consumer Lifestyle Index is produced in partnership with market research firm GfK. The full report is available here.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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