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Tech device sales to decline in 2020 amid pandemic

CTA report forecasts economic downturn


Core tech device shipments such as smartphones, TVs and laptops will decline in 2020 as consumers struggle with economic uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). 

“Unemployment and downward pressure on consumer spending caused by this pandemic will bring significant headwinds to the tech industry outlook this year,” says Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA. “The tech industry has weathered many economic storms over the last few decades but as a whole the tech sector remains resilient and plays an indispensable role in our lives.”

The report factors four major considerations into the updated 2020 projections including longevity of the health crisis, economic hardship placing downward pressure on spending, effects of the fiscal stimulus and shifts in consumer behavior. As a result, the updated outlook for core device categories are:

Smartphones: With uncertain economic conditions, CTA expects consumers will delay big-ticket purchases such as smartphones, and the timeline to upgrade them will lengthen. Manufacturers may delay 5G-enabled releases and other flagship models until consumer confidence returns. CTA now projects smartphones will sell between 138-153 million units in 2020 (a -15% to -6% drop from 2019).

Televisions: Despite excitement for 8K Ultra HD and OLED technologies, the economic downturn will dampen household upgrades to premium TVs. As a result, CTA projects between 34-37 million units will sell in 2020 (a -14% to -8% decline year-over-year). Near-term opportunities for TV sales include households looking to add screens to accommodate more in-home video demand and upgrades in the commercial market, as businesses enhance video conferencing capabilities.

Laptops: Consumer demand for laptops jumped at the start of the outbreak, as the workforce and students prepared to work and learn remotely. While laptops remain the dominant computing device, the drag of a recession will nonetheless pull down sales. CTA projects between 46-51 million units will sell in 2020 (a range of -12% and -4% decline from last year).

“The financial health of the consumer and their willingness to spend presents the biggest swing factor to the tech industry outlook,” says Steve Koenig, vice president, research, CTA. “While downside risks are in the majority right now, there are bright spots – and sales of some tech devices and services may perform better than expected.”