Western Europe: household appliances market stabilizes

The Western European market for technical consumer goods appeared relatively stable in the first quarter of 2014, according to the data published by GfK Temax. Sales accounted for almost €48.1 billion, showing a slight decrease of 0.5% compared to the first quarter of 2013. In particular, the markets for major and small domestic appliances were healthy and showed increased sales, compared to last year. The telecommunications segment appeared steady, but growth rates flattened in the first quarter of 2014. In terms of individual countries, Portugal, Spain, and the UK showed the best development in this period.

Small domestic appliances: strong growth in the kitchen and cleaning segments
In the first quarter of 2014, sales amounted to almost €3.3 billion in the Western European market for small domestic appliances. That corresponds to stable growth of 4.4% on a year-on-year basis. Nearly all countries surveyed contributed to this positive development. Only Sweden and Germany were exceptions, with Germany registering a slight decrease of 0.9%. The strongest momentum for growth emanated from the kitchen machines and vacuum cleaners segments. In particular, well-equipped, premium-priced, cordless hand sticks and bagless cylinder vacuum cleaners were in demand. In the kitchen equipment segment, traditional kitchen machines and liquidizers were noticeable sales drivers and were especially popular in the UK.

Major domestic appliances: energetic start to the first quarter
The Western European market for major domestic appliances had an energetic start with a positive growth rate of 3.9%. Total sales volume in the first quarter of 2014 amounted to €7.7 billion. Germany and the UK achieved the highest increase, with the UK recording a significant price uplift. In Sweden, development lagged somewhat behind last year’s performance, resulting in a slight decrease of 0.3%. The countries that had been most affected by the economic crisis, Portugal and Greece, also reported a significant recovery, whereas the Greek market is still struggling with pricing pressure. Tumble dryers with heat pump technology raised sales in all surveyed countries, demonstrating the general trend towards energy-efficient appliances.

Telecommunications: increasing pricing pressure for smartphones
The Western European market for telecommunications achieved a growth rate of about 0.5% in the first quarter of 2014, generating a sales volume of almost €10.0 billion. Despite Europe being a mature market, the demand for mobile phones and smartphones was still positive in the first quarter. Nevertheless, the demand for mobile phones is approaching saturation point. Therefore, price erosion is no longer compensated for by a trading-up in the product mix. However, the forthcoming new flagship models in the smartphones and mobile phones segments are restoring hope for a slight improvement in sales development in the second quarter.

Office equipment and consumables: signs of optimism
In the first quarter of 2014, the Western European market for office equipment and consumables remained at the level of the first quarter of 2013 with a sales volume of €4 billion. Within the countries surveyed, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, and the UK achieved positive growth rates. The printing market overall remained under pressure. However, the negative trend is turning in some markets, and sales are increasing again, which is a positive sign. As a result, the decrease in the consumables segment could slow bit by bit.

Information technology: mobility and flexibility are the key
The total sales volume generated in the first quarter of 2014 in the Western European market for Information technology amounted to about €14 billion – a decrease of 2%, compared to last year. Nevertheless, Germany, Portugal, and Greece achieved significant increases. It is anticipated that computing devices – which meet the customers´ needs in terms of mobile usage and design – will show increasing growth rates in 2014. In particular, it is likely that touch-enabled products will gain momentum. Furthermore, the consumers´ current usage behavior will undoubtedly increase demand for storage solutions as well as for networking devices for sharing and storing content.

Consumer electronics: negative trend flattens significantly
The total sales volume generated in the Western European market for consumer electronics accounted to almost €7.7 billion in the first quarter of 2014. This corresponds to a slight decrease of 2.3%, compared to last year. However, the negative trend flattened considerably, especially in the UK, Sweden, and Portugal. Despite some positive indicators for market growth, recovery is not stable yet. The TV segment remains under pricing pressure, showing almost no positive development in terms of sales. Nevertheless, GfK sees good potential in the HDTVs segment with 4K/UHD technology, as well as in the field of connected audio and docking speakers.

Photography*: declining market with growth niches
In the first quarter of 2014, the sales volume in the photography segment amounted to almost €1.4 billion in the Western European market. This corresponds to a decrease of 15.2%, compared to last year. Within all countries surveyed, the UK performed best, but also reported negative growth. High-quality models, which cannot be replaced easily by smartphones, were still enjoying positive growth. Moreover, Wi-Fi, which enables fast data communication, became a more important feature for cameras.
*Photography includes cameras and accessories

Technical consumer goods market appears more robust again
After the overall difficult year of 2013, the Western European market for technical consumer goods appears more robust again in the first quarter of 2014. Positive impacts came especially from the segments of small and major domestic appliances. There were also encouraging signs in some countries – especially the Southern European countries – which showed significant increases in sales in the first three months of the year. This is also reflected in the latest results of the European GfK consumer climate study, which concluded that the consumers’ optimism is strengthening.

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