What you bought in 2008: from turntables to TVs – the surprising winners and losers as credit got crunched

Wed, 4 Feb 2009, 12:37pm

TVs dominate high street sales 

Did you know the average selling price for a 32in TV was £402 in December? Or that there were still around £2m worth of £1000+ DVD players sold last year? Or that turntables are the fastest-growing hi-fi product?

Well you do now, and I'm about to reveal more insights into your buying habits of the past year, thanks to a slew of new consumer-electronics sales data that's been sliced and diced by industry analysts at Gfk.

GfK figures are based on sell-out retail data (ie the prices you pay at the checkout) from across the UK, online and offline. They cover independent retailers, mass merchandisers (eg department stores; supermarkets), electrical multiples (eg Currys, Comet) and mail order (including online retailers).

More than six billion pounds of AV sales

Following many years of growth, the overall consumer electronics market shrank by 8.1 percent in 2008, with the most dramatic falls from November onwards. Contrast that with 2007, where the CE market grew by 7.6 percent.

However, unlike areas such as domestic appliances - down 12.8 percent, attributed to far less people moving house -  the AV sector has shown a much smaller decline.

The UK market for AV products, which includes all hi-fi, home cinema, TV and MP3 products (excluding mobile phones), is only down 2 percent year on year, with a staggering £6.1bn of sales in 2008.

2008's winners and losers

Blu-ray logo 

So, before we dig into the details, let's see a snapshot of what was up and what was down in this turbulent year. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was a tale of falling prices, though there were some intriguing success stories, too


  • Blu-ray players have overtaken DVD players in value for the first time
  • Headphone sales are up 11 percent (with growth in both hi-fi and MP3 designs)
  • iPod docking products - from clock radios to speaker systems - are up 61 percent
  • Hi-fi separates sales (which in Gfk terms includes home cinema kit) are up 5 percent – boosted by booming receiver sales, and turntables!
  • Plasma sales are up 3 percent – driven by some strong deals on 50in sets at the end of the year.


  • LCD TVs have crashed in price – down 5 percent in value terms despite increase in volume. However, LCD sales still account for more than half of the AV market, at £3.216bn. Blimey....
  • Hi-fi and home cinema all-in-one systems are down 9 percent – while the world awaits a mass-market Blu-ray system…
  • MP3/MP4 player sales are down 4 percent (these figures don't include - but are certainly influenced by – MP3 mobile phones, including the iPhone).
  • DVD recorders, PVRs and portable radios are also all down – but more by value than volume

Online vs High Street sales

Despite some high-profile success stories in online retail, internet sales accounted for just 15 percent of the £6.1bn AV market in 2008.

The majority of online sales remain for smaller and/or more obviously web-friendly items (anything iPod; DAB radios, headphones etc), but there are big rises in other areas – notably a 30 percent rise in hi-fi separates sales (now 5 percent of online AV sales) and a 27 percent rise for audio systems (now 10 percent of online AV sales).

On the High Street, mass merchandisers (including department stores and supermarkets) are the only sector showing a sales increase (of 1 percent for the year), and have increased their market share to 31 percent – putting them level for first time with the electrical multiples (Currys,Comet etc), which have seen a 9 percent drop in sales. Independent retailers have also gained some market share at expense of the multiples, though their sales figures are down 3 percent.

Product specifics – the highlights

Televisions galore 

Televisions - the UK remains flatscreen-crazy, boosted by HD TV and Blu-ray (as well as the sets themselves) becoming more affordable.

  • 9 million TVs were sold in 2008 – not bad when you consider the UK only has 25m households. This is up from 8.6m unit sales in 2007.
  • 32in remains most popular screen size – but 37-42in is fastest-growing sector – with the average selling price of £402 for a 32in in December.
  • Plasma is holding its value better than LCD – average price in December of a 50in plasma was £1020, with more than 100,000 sales that month.

DVD/Blu-ray- with BD winning the HD disc battle in early 2008, the format has finally started taking off.

  • Blu-ray player sales (not including PS3) rose from £11m in 2007 to £57m in 2008.
  • December 2007 – 6,400 Blu-ray players sold, average price £333
  • December 2008 – 86,000 Blu-ray players sold, average price £189
  • 2008 average selling price of a DVD player  - £29. But there were still £2m worth of £1000+ DVD players sold in the UK last year…

Headphones - 2008 market worth £89m – significant rise from 2007’s £78m, with designs proving popular at every price point.

MP3/MP4 - a maturing market, with the cheap players killed by music-playing mobile phones:

  • September's launch of new Apple iPods didn’t give the market the by-now-expected lift.
  • 75 percent of the MP3/MP4 player market (£473m) is now at £100+
  • iPod speaker systems are now a £60m market, with 640,000 units sold (up from 500,000 in 2007), and an average selling  price  of £67 (up from £54).Yes, just £67 - despite £150+ speaker systems being the fastest-growing category.

Pure Evoke Flow
Radio -  the UK's passion for radio remains undimmed:

  • 8.5m DAB radios sold to date
  • 2.1m DAB radios sold in 2008 (up from 2m in 2007)
  • Did you buy/receive a radio at Christmas? With 1m DAB radios sold in the lead up to Christmas, a lot of people did...
  • Hi-fi tuners are still holding their value
  • Internet radios, such as the Pure Evoke Flow (above) are starting to register – accounting for 6 percent of radio sales (by value) in December 2008. DAB has 80 percent value share; analogue the rest

All-in-one hi-fi and home cinema systems - hi-fi systems continue to sell well, but home cinema in a box declined in value as retailers bundled home cinema system with TVs to win sales, plus a lack of Blu-ray systems blunted our appetites:

  • £144m of home cinema systems sold in 2008 – with £15m at £500-£1000 and £18m at £1000+.
  • Hi-fi systems are stable, and not all the action's at the cheap-micro end: £13m worth of £500-£1000 systems (such as the Arcam Solo Mini, pictured below) were sold in 2008, and £8m of £1000+ systems.

Arcam Solo Mini
Audio streaming, music clients/servers - a fast-growing market, worth £16m in 2008.  Average selling price of £334.

Audio separates - after several years of decline, separates are making a kind of comeback!

  • Market stayed level 2007-2008 at £200m
  • Major mover was AV receivers - up from £30m in 2007 to £39m in 2008, boosted by demand for Blu-ray friendly HD Audio receivers
  • Turntable market up to £10m from £9m, with both standard and USB turntables driving sales.
  • Slight fall in sales of speakers and speaker packages (no need to upgrade them for Blu-ray!), but speakers still account for half of all separates sales, at £100m.
  • CD players sales have stabilised, boosted by growth in the midrange market - the arrival of new models from Cyrus, Arcam and Roksan (see below) in this sector had a noticeable impact.

Roksan Kandy K2
And finally - news for a nation of cable-lovers
The HDMI cable market was worth £23m in 2008, with 650,000 cables sold, at an average price of £31.  More than 130,000 HDMI cables were sold in December alone....

So, did your 2008 purchases fit the pattern, or did you buck the trend?




My DAC, Arcam Solo-Mini, Rega P2 turntable and Pure Evoke Flow purchases last year seem to fit the 2008 trends.

Glad to see turntable sales up from £9M to £10M last year and nice to have contributed a little bit to that.

In 2008, my AV purchases were a Denon AVR-1909 AV Receiver, a Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray Player, a Pure Evoke Flow Radio and an Apple iPod Touch 2G 16GB. Since then I've also ordered a Pioneer KRL-32V LCD TV. All of these were bought as upgrades to similar products which I already owned.

2008 was ouch for me, new TV, first Blu Ray purchase, Sky HD, Soundbar & Sub plus all leads and AV Stand. The only product left from my original setup is my Wii.

50p in the Peston Memorial Credit Crunch Box, please, Boss.

You know the rules...

And I fell for a Solo Mini too, very nice piece of kit.

Now that's what I call a useful feature! Any specifics as to which models from which manufacturers were the top sellers in the Blu-ray category?

Why is everyone listing their 2008 purchases? If you can't beat 'em... PS3, Arcam Solo Mini/rDock/Muso's, Logitech Squeezebox Duet, CA DacMagic, iPod Touch 32GB, Shure 420's, Yamaha sub, umpteen expensive cables and Lindy 6-way.

2008 was a fantastic year for new toys for me.  I bought a Sony 40" W4000 TV, a Yamaha 763 Amp, a PS3,  2 squeezebox classics, a QNAP NAS to store all my music on and lastly a pure evoke flow interweb radio for my wife's christmas pressie. I certainly did my bit to fight the credit crunch!

This year I predict I won't be buying anything after that little lot. Although I have found myself browsing through speaker packages recently Smile

randomdelusion - GfK only give us the occasional product-specific drill-down on this data: the manufacturers and retailers get those reports!

However, it doesn't take much detective work to look at the price peaks and work out exactly which products they represent. In the case of Blu-ray, Sony and Panasonic were the big sells - i'd predict that (due to all that discounting/free disc deals) the Sony BDP350 was probably the best-selling BD player in Q4 2008.

Thanks for that C. That jump from in Blu-ray sales from £11 million to £57 million is absolutely astonishing. Predictable, I suppose, given how fast Blu-ray player prices has spiralled downwards.

What about the av receiver sector? Was the £9 million jump mostly accounted for by 5.1 or 7.1 HD receivers? Is it possible to separate that kind of detail out from your data?

Personally, I veer towards the view that most buy 7.1 receivers but never use the extra two channels. Few people, other than young batchelors, can get away with that many boxes in their living room.

What would be your guess as to best selling receiver of last year... I'm guessing Sony STR-DG820?

The overview Gfk data we see tends to focus on price, not features, so it'd be tough to break the receiver market down by 5.1/7.1. And as you get 7.1 by default on almost every amp/receiver now, I don't think it's a big deal.

Receiver saw growth at every price level, but average price paid rose - the market was up 6 percent in volume and 28 percent in value. I'll do some digging on key product hotspots....

Sorry, I only bought a 50" 850 series Panasonic Plasma in 2008 and because I purchased my Technics SL1200MK2 back in the early eighties, I should never need to buy another turntable! A new receiver would be nice though, and Blu-Ray player, maybe 2009!