drone1Consumer electronics (CE) have consistently numbered among the most popular holiday gifts, and that’s expected to be the case this holiday shopping season as well. A record high number of U.S. consumers – 68%, or about 170 million people – intend to buy technology gifts this year, according to Consumer Technology Association (CTA) research about high-tech holiday gift purchase plans.

Holiday retail spending on high-tech CE products will increase 31% year-over-year this holiday season, CTA forecasts. More broadly, overall retail sales for November and December, excluding gasoline and restaurant sales, will rise 3.8% to $824.8 billion.

Turning to holiday-season online retail sales, CTA expects a 16.4% YoY increase, with total e-tail sales coming in at an estimated $84.2 billion. Mobile e-tail sales will increase 45.2% to $20.1 billion, the industry association predicts.

High-Tech Holiday Gift Purchase Plans
New and novel tech products have been among the most popular holiday-season high-tech gift purchases. Furthermore, CE OEMs and retailers typically coordinate to introduce new model and products to coincide with the year-end and New Year holiday shopping season.

Drones, virtual reality and wearable tech products are commonly found on 2016 holiday shoppers’ lists, according to CTA’s ¨23rd Annual Consumer Technology Holiday Purchase Patterns Study.¨

Headphones are expected to be the most popular holiday high-tech gift items again this year. Forty percent of CTA survey respondents said they were considering buying headphones as holiday gifts. The industry-wide shift to wireless audio devices is helping maintain headphones’ popularity, CTA points out in a press release about high-tech holiday gift purchase plans.

Laptops, TVs, smartphones, tablets and video game consoles were the tech products survey respondents wanted most.

Following is CTA’s summary of what are expected to be the most popular emerging tech gift items this holiday season:

  • Wearables (27 percent of consumers plan to buy), led by smart watches (17 percent) and fitness activity trackers (15 percent)
  • Smart home devices (24 percent), including smart thermostats (10 percent) and digital assistant devices such as Amazon’s Echo (six percent)
    Connected or digital toys (11 percent)
  • VR headsets (10 percent); with several tech leaders introducing VR headsets to the market, CTA projects sales of 700,000 during the holiday season
  • Drones (nine percent), with projected sales of about 1.2 million units this holiday season (up 112 percent over 2015).

“The 2016 holiday season looks to be the biggest on record for the tech sector, thanks to fresh and innovative products on the market such as wearable tech, VR headsets, drones and digital assistant devices,” commented Shawn DuBravac, CTA’s chief economist. “Our research also finds that most Americans are now using tech devices to help them research and buy those tech gifts.”

Nearly six in 10 holiday shoppers are likely to search for gifts online this year, up two percentage points, according to CTA.

That said, ¨bricks and mortar¨ retail outlets remain the most popular for tech gift purchases.Three-quarters (74%) of survey respondents said they would likely make a purchase at a ¨bricks and mortar¨ shop this holiday season. That was down three percentage points from last year, however.

All this said, survey respondents voiced some apprehension regarding their 2016 holiday shopping purchase plans, CTA points out. Not having enough money (60%), increased cost of living (57%) and fixed incomes (54%) were among the most commonly cited reasons among those who said they plan to spend less on holiday gifts this year than last. Nearly four in 10 cited concerns about outcome of the presidential election among their reasons for spending less this season.

“The holiday shopping season has been steadily creeping earlier and earlier into the year, but we expect to see a delay in the barrage of holiday promotions this year until after the presidential election,” DuBravac commented. “This election will impact not only when consumers begin to shop but, potentially, how much they spend.”

Image courtesy of flickr user Richard Unten.

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