Early this year we brought you details of 2008's most popular home entertainment products, and now we've had our first update on 2009's most wanted. And it's a fascinating, myth-dispelling snapshot of the buying habits of recessionary Britain. So, what do you think sold more - headphones or Blu-ray players?
The consumer confidence index may still be low - as of June 2009, it was running at -25; though it has hit as low as -35 in the past year - and UK spend on consumer electronics is down a whopping 19 percent year-on-year, but hi-fi and home cinema purchases are holding up remarkably well. Britons have spent £1 billion on AV kit in the past year, and this sector of the CE market has fallen by a comparatively modest 4 percent.
The figures come from GfK, industy analysts that collate sales figures - including units sold, and at what price - from the UK's range of online and regular retailers. From supermarkets to specialist shops, they've got the data on what you're buying and how much you paid at checkout.
So, what's hot and what's not?
TVs continue to drive the home entertainment market, with flatscreen sales actually up 3 percent in the year to April 2009. That translates to a mighty 9.5 million sets sold from May 2008 to April 2009, with LCD increasing leading the way in terms of value and volume.
More of those TVs are being bought online, too: 15 percent of LCD sets are now sold over the internet and 13 percent of plasmas (for comparison, 11 percent of audio systems are now sold online, with only 5 percent of audio separates coming to your house via mouse).
LCD becoming the premium choice
As LCD TVs become available at larger screen sizes, they're overtaking plasma at the premium end of the market. LCD TVs now account for 60 percent of all sales of 40in+ sets, plus they're typically selling at a higher price point - plasma is becoming the big-screen value option; a situation that only looks likely to continue as Pioneer's premium-priced Kuros exit the market.
More surprisingly, less than 3m Full HD TVs have been sold to date - HD Ready sets are still the most popular purchase, though of course this lower resolution is the only option on smaller sets. It'll be interesting to see how the HD Ready/Full HD sales ratio changes in the light of the following figures...
Blu-ray growing faster than DVD did
There may have been some negative stories flying around about Blu-ray not taking off, but that's certainly not the case in the UK. More than 400,000 BD players (excluding Sony PS3) have been sold here in the past year, with sales growing month on month. Gfk predicts that figure will hit 750,000 by 2010.
Both this year's figure and next year's projection see Blu-ray player sales outstripping those of DVD in its early years - though that format's far from dead; 5m DVD units (players, recorders and portables) were sold in the past year.
In terms of value, £78m of Blu-ray players were sold in the past year - that compares to £57m in 2008. The average price paid has actually risen - from £189 in December 2008 to just shy of £200 by April 2009 - driven by the introduction of new-season models, such as Panasonic's DMP-BD60 (below).
Higher-end Blu-ray players are also selling well - models costing £400+ accounted for 8 percent of all BD hardware sales.
Unsurprisingly, with TV and Blu-ray faring so well, the market for HDMI cables is booming, too. More than £30m worth of HDMI cables have been sold in the past year - up from £23m in 2008 - and the average price paid is holding steady at @£30 per cable.
Multichannel receivers outsell stereo amps
Sales of AV receivers also continue to benefit from the high-definition boom, with £41m of multichannel amps and receivers sold in the past year. Contrast this to the market for stereo amplifiers, which has fallen to £25m over the past year.
Generally, however, the hi-fi separates market has stayed reasonably stable, at total value of @£200m. Turntables continue to grow, while CD players fall - though higher-end CD players, amps and speakers continue to fare surprisingly well, with the sub-£500 market worst hit. Wonder if the entrance of new models into the budget sector from Cambridge Audio, Marantz and more will change those figures come year-end?
Goodbye hi-fi, hello iPod dock?
While sales of separates stay fairly static at £200m, coming up fast are iPod speaker systems - up 64 percent year-on-year to a mighty £184m. The action isn't all at pocket-money prices, either: sales of £200+ products such as the B&W Zeppelin (pictured) have doubled to £47m.
Traditional audio systems - both hi-fi and home cinema - have seen sales fall, with the movie market particularly hit by the slow appearance of Blu-ray-based packages. Again, it's the cheaper end of the systems market where the decline has been worst - higher-end products, such as the Arcam Solo, continue to sell well. Still. systems remain a £300m market.
Let's ear it for headphones
One clear winner in this recessionary year is headphones - modern man's default treat purchase? The UK headphone market is now worth a staggering £91m - up from £84m in 2008. In-ear headphones account for more than half of all models sold (£53m, up from £49m), but the percentage rise in traditional hi-fi headphones sales is even higher - up to £20m from last year's £14m.
There's still a lot of 2009 to go, with some factors that could boost the market for certain products - several massive movie disc releases from September; the effect of the Digital Britain report on DAB radio sales; the digital switchover accelerating and the introduction of Freeview HD - and we'll continue to track what's setting the tills ringing...
- Additional research and reporting by Rachael Prasher -