Disappointing last quarter of 2013 for the Belgian Techical Consumer Goods market

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The market for Technical Consumer Goods in Belgium declined in the last quarter of 2013. Sales volumes were down by 6% compared to the same quarter in 2012. The decline was noticeable in all sectors, with one exception: the market for Small Domestic Appliances (SDA). For the very first time, sales of smartphones dropped. Meanwhile, sales of media tablets increased.

As reported by GfK TEMAX, for the full year 2013 the whole Technical Consumer Goods market declined 2%, compared to 2012. Telecommunications was by far the best-performing sector in 2013 (+10.9%), followed by IT (+5.8%) and SDA (+2.2%). The Consumer Electronics sector ended the year with a decline of 17.5%. Also the Photo business fell back sharply with a decline of 12.5%. Even Major Domestic Appliances, traditionally a very stable market, remained depressed, with market volumes shrinking by 2.2%.

Telecommunications: a significant change in Q4
In Q4 2012, Telecommunications was the Technical Consumer Goods sector with the highest growth rates. In Q4 2013, the market did not experience any growth. Sales were down in Q4 2013 by more than 5%, compared with Q4 2012. The growth of smartphones seemed unstoppable. However, in the Q4 2013, sales declined by 5.2%. In Q4 2012, a number of subsidy models proved to be very successful. In Q4 2013, these models were not available, and this impacted the sales of smartphones. Sales for the mobile phone accessories market grew by more than 40% in the first three quarters of 2013. In the last quarter, growth was “only” 15%, compared to Q4 2012. The decline was visible in all accessory parts: cases, screen protectors and cables. The only accessory with strong sales in the last quarter of 2013 was the headset. Headphones equipped with a microphone were an excellent Christmas gift in 2013.

Information Technology: demand for mobile appliances, media & computing tablets remains high
Sales in the Information Technology market increased by 1% during Q4 2013. The sector reached a value of close to €457 million during the period. For the full year 2013, sales in the Information Technology sector were just over €1.67 billion, an increase of 5.8% compared to 2012. The demand for mobile appliances like media and tablet PCs grew during the last quarter of 2013. Ultrathin models performed well, along with peripheral products, such as keying and pointing devices for media and tablet PCs. Sales of products that allow home users to connect their devices to a network or to manage their own content through cloud and storage solutions also grew.

Office Equipment and Consumables: only potential in data-video projectors
In the Office Equipment and Consumables market, sales reached nearly €133 million in Q4 2013. Compared to Q4 2012, sales were almost 10% lower. Sales of Office Equipment and Consumables were €500 million in 2013, a decrease of 11% compared to 2012. We monitored declines in all Printing and Consumable categories. Only data-video projectors were able to offset the negative trend with an increase of 15% during Q4, due to full HD projectors.

Photo: strongest decline during Q4
Sales in the Photo sector declined almost 20% in Q4 2013. This corresponds to a sales value of just over €51 million. Throughout 2013, Photo categories declined by an average of 12% to €218 million. Once again, the Fixed Lens market experienced the biggest decline. Smartphones, with their built-in cameras, are having a particularly negative impact on the low end of this market segment. The market for Changeable Lens cameras is continuing to perform much better than the Fixed Lens market. Within this segment, the decline in sales was much more moderate. The increasing sales of Single Lens Reflex camera models, priced at almost the same level as system cameras, may be one reason Compact System Cameras did not show strong growth, as anticipated.

Significant growth figures for Small Domestic Appliances in Q4
During Q4 2013, the most important period for Small Domestic Appliances, sales growth reached almost 5%. Practically all product groups achieved higher sales than last year. Only the Home Comfort segment stagnated. Vacuum cleaners had a small increase in sales, while sales of irons decreased slightly. Kitchen appliances remain a strong growth driver for Small Domestic Appliances. Hot beverage makers remain popular, especially those with pump-portioned closed-systems. Food preparation also saw double-digit higher sales and the Breakfast segment performed as well. For personal care, strong sales growth was driven by hairstylers, due to new innovations.

Major Domestic Appliances: a glimpse of change?
In Q4 2013, slight price declines in the freestanding and the built-in segment led to sales declines, though the built-in segment showed a positive result in December. Is this a glimpse of change in the major home appliances market in 2014? Demand for “nicer” and more efficient products can be noted. Convenience functions like touch control, self-clean and flex induction are part of cooking as a lifestyle activity.

Consumer Electronics: a difficult year
2013 was one of the most difficult years on record for the Consumer Electronics market in Belgium. Sales were down 18% in 2013 compared with 2012. Q4 2013 was down 17% compared to Q4 2012. Flat Panel TVs brought in almost 54% of all Consumer Electronics sales, yet turnover was down more than €34 million in Q4 2013. Sales of camcorders, DVD & Bluray players, as well as MP3 and MP4 players were lower. Meanwhile, smartphones and media tablets, equipped with cameras and music players, are responsible for the steep sales declines of 43% in the camcorder market (Q4/2013 vs. Q4/2012) and 39% for MP3/MP4 players. Sales of Sound Bars, or loudspeakers, rose by more than 20% in Q4 2013, compared with Q4 2012. The sales of mini and docking speakers grew by 10% in Q4 2013, compared to Q4 2012. Sales of Network Music Systems increased by almost threefold in 2013.