iPhones and BlackBerrys the saving grace for Australian gadget sales

By Paul Hayes

SYDNEY, NSW: Sales of iPhones and Blackberrys are helping to prop up Australia's sagging technical goods market, with smartphone sales growing an astounding 149 per cent in the latest quarter as traditional handsets dropped 45 per cent, according to the latest GfK Temax report.

The massive smartphone growth was one of the few bright spots in the latest industry research.

This morning's results from GfK confirmed what Australian retailers have been saying for months: that the absence of government stimulus spending and rising interest rates have greatly impacted consumer sales.

“The extent to which the government stimulus packages, coupled with extremely low interest rates, affected 2009’s consumer splurge on technical goods, seems to have been under-estimated,” the researcher said.

GfK's report revealed that spending on technical consumer goods in the first quarter 2010 has declined 1.6 per cent, the first such decline since the launch of the Temax report in the third quarter 2008.

The category hardest hit was small domestic appliances, with an overall decline of 11.5 per cent, while major domestic appliances dipped 3.2 per cent.

GfK attributed much of the small appliance decline to a slowing in seasonal appliance, with air conditioner sales falling a whopping 20 per cent.

The massive popularity of kitchen shows managed a positive role in appliance sales, GfK said, with a 23 per cent increase in coffee machine sales, while cooking appliances displayed the only growth in major appliances, with a 4 per cent bump.

Refrigeration, washing machines and dishwashers all experienced decline.

While consumer electronics as a whole failed to generate any growth, falling for the first time in Temax history with a 2.2 per cent dip in the quarter, there were positives.

The flat panel TV category saw a massive unit increase of 38 per cent, but continued falling prices meant its overall growth came in at a far more modest 3 per cent. GfK expects this increase to continue in the lead up to the FIFA World Cup.

The coming digital switchover also played a role in consumer electronics, with set-top boxes seeing a 38 per cent spike in sales.

One area that did see some growth, albeit slow, was the IT category.

While it was a mixed quarter for value sales of notebooks, the IT sector did experience a modest increase of 5.6 per cent, due largely to January ‘back-to-school’ promotions, GfK said.

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