By Claire Reilly

GfK Retail and Technology yesterday released the results of its quarterly GfK Temax Index, which tracks consumer take up of technology, consumer electronics and appliances. While the index showed large fluctuations in the IT, CE and telecommunications categories, major and small appliances have proven to be a little more stable over the past months.

Small domestic appliances declined by 3.2 per cent over the quarter, a result that was strongly affected by a decline in sales of heating products (which fall under the smalls umbrella in GfK’s product grouping).

“Following a cold and wet quarter 2, when heating products were snapped up early in the season, a relatively mild and dry quarter 3 resulted in double-digit value decline for the large heating categories,” said a GfK spokesperson. “The overall result, therefore, was a 3% year-on-year decline for the small domestic appliances sector.”

However, the drop in heating sales was tempered by “very positive results outside of the heating categories,” in categories such as food preparation and floorcare.

“Consumers’ appetite for food preparation products continued its seemingly unstoppable growth. Along with hot beverage makers and vacuum cleaners, these categories bucked the main trend of the technical consumer goods industry, by delivering increases in overall average prices.

“This suggests that consumers chose to trade-up to higher-end products and brands, leading to very strong year-on-year value growth for these categories.”

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Alongside smalls, there was also a warning for major appliances, with GfK suggesting that strong post-flood sales in Queensland managed to mitigate decline in sales that was seen elsewhere in Australia.

“This relatively stable sector is continuing to experience moderate price decline, which is a relatively recent trend for categories within this sector,” said the spokesperson. “With big box brands and retailers turning their attention to white goods, the increased competition will continue to put pressure on price, threatening the stability that this sector has enjoyed.”

Overall, the message from the GfK Temax Index (in line with the mood across the industry as a whole) was one of cautious optimism.

“Local increases in consumer confidence in September and October, and a quarter percent cut in interest rates in November, suggest that despite global financial concerns, local consumers will be feeling quite optimistic on the run-up to Christmas.

“Price erosion continues to be the single biggest threat to the health of the industry, but at this stage, unit growth is still significant enough to deliver overall single-digit value growth.