The premium U.S. headphone market ($100+) continued to grow throughout 2013, surpassing $1 billion – an increase of 21% from 2012, according to new research from The NPD Group.  Overall, the stereo headphone market increased 11% to $2.3 billion in 2013.

Headphones with features geared for fitness and exercise helped to grow the market. 2013 was marked by significant growth of Bluetooth and water resistant headphones which increased 93% and 51% in units, respectively, according to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service. Additionally, in-ear style headphones, which are best suited for exercise, comprised 51% of total unit sales in 2013. Not surprisingly, exercise was cited as the number one use of headphones among consumers for the third year in a row, according to NPD’s Headphones Ownership and Application report.

“Nearly two-thirds of headphone users exercise while using their headphones and that number increases to three-quarters when we look at the 18-34 year old segment,” said Ben Arnold, executive director, industry analyst at NPD. “From the growing digital fitness device market to ruggedized smartphones and sport headphones, fitness and exercise use-cases are a growing opportunity throughout the consumer electronics market.”

Growing ownership of mobile devices is also providing a lift to headphone sales. According to the study, more than half (55%) of headphone owners are connecting to a smartphone up from just 36% in 2012. Additionally, headphone connections to tablets have grown, increasing from 15% of users in 2012 to 35%. Premium headphone owners connect to mobile devices at an even higher rate. Sixty-one percent of premium headphones were connected to a smartphone and 49% to a tablet. In contrast, the number of consumers connecting their headphones to an MP3 player has declined, falling from 65% in 2011 to 54% in 2013.

“Headphone connections to smartphones and tablets continue to increase as these devices figure more prominently as consumption devices” said Arnold. “The headphone market is experiencing a renaissance because of the mobile industry and consumers’ increased use of video, audio and apps on portable devices. In a new segment like fitness, sales are growing quickly, but there is still plenty of room for new brands and designs to enter.”

[Source:  Retail Tracking Service.  The NPD Group.  3 Mar. 2014.  Web.  14 Mar. 2014.]