Headphones defy Coronavirus gloom as sales boom

posted on Friday, 1st May 2020 by Steve May

Hi-fi  Headphones  Trade 

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The global CE market is taking a pounding from the COVID-19 pandemic, but headphones remain one area where there’s signs of buoyancy.

According to new figures released by the Consumer Electronics team at Futuresource Consulting, the worldwide headphone market is on track for 27 per cent value growth this year, along with a 10 per cent year-on-year increase in volume sales.

While the exact effects of Coronavirus are difficult to unpick, the team at Futuresource has modelled a range of scenarios to explore its potential impact on the business.

The most likely, middle-ground scenario suggests that the Chinese manufacturing shortages experienced in Q1 will be resolved, by Q2 2020, and Chinese domestic demand will recover earlier than most, it predicts.

Western Europe and North America will be impacted mostly in Q2 and Q3, but will recover strongly, with delayed new product launches and latent demand from earlier in the year combining for a heavily loaded Q4.

One area of disruption is the supply chain, which is expected to cause a slow down in Q2 shipments, not least because factories have been shuttered during Q1.

Now might be a good time to buy, suggest experts, as prices are likely to rise as supply shortages are passed on to consumers.

One sector of the headphone market likely to struggle is the high-end premium sector, as unemployment bites and the global economy moves into recession. Luxury over-ears and wireless products could be a hard sell.

"Now might be a good time to buy, suggest experts, as prices are likely to rise as supply shortages are passed on to consumers..."

“Despite the challenges, we expect the headphones market to hold up well,” says Pearce. “Futuresource carried out a consumer research study earlier this year, across France, Germany, Spain, the UK, USA and China, focusing on buyer behaviour habits across a range of CE categories. Even then, online purchases dominated the audio sector, with 67 per cent of headphone purchases made online. It’s a good sign for the continued stability of the headphones market.”

When it comes to true wireless, Apple remains the biggest player. But even taking Apple out of the equation, the size of the business is significant. Last year the market surged to 52 million units from less than five million in 2018.

Active noise cancellation is also a clear trend, with Futuresource forecasting the technology will be embedded into 42 million units this year, up from 11 million in 2019.

“Self-isolation and social distancing measures are generating demand for products that complement and improve the stay-at-home lifestyle,” suggests Luke Pearce, Research Analyst. “The seismic cultural shift is proving to be of real benefit to the headphones market, and we’re seeing particular activity around features like active noise cancellation, microphone performance, TV connectivity and kids’ headphones.”

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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