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Best of 2012: Growth in Premium Headphone Sales Reflect Consumer’s Focus on Sound Quality

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U.S. sales of stereo headphones priced above $100 more than doubled in 2011, outpacing the rate of growth overall in the category, according to The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service.  While models under $100 make up the majority of headphone sales, models priced above $100 have doubled their unit share to 6%, and now account for more than $342 million in sales through November of 2011.

Retailers sold nearly a million more units of $100+ headphones through November in 2011 compared to the same period in 2010, which accounted for almost $200 million in additional sales. Products emphasizing brand, sound quality, and celebrity endorsements have driven much of this growth.

With the increase in mobile device ownership and the plethora of digital content options, it is no surprise that the headphones category as a whole has exhibited growth this year when other key CE categories have not,” said Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis at NPD.  “As expected, consumers have begun to look for better quality audio listening devices to go with all of the music, video, and other content they’ve collected.”

For many purchasers, brand and sound quality are equally important, regardless of price point.  Nearly half (48%) of headphone purchasers in 2011 (through November), said sound quality was ‘extremely important’ or ‘very important’ in their decision to buy, while a similar number (54%) say brand was a key factor, according to NPD’s consumer tracking service.

Manufacturers have begun to market sound quality to consumers as a way to differentiate more premium products” said Arnold. “The growth in the $100+ price segment shows buyers have responded to this trend.  That said, well known brands and celebrity or musician endorsements have been successful, too, in raising the profile of many headphone products.”

[Source:  Retail Tracking Service.  The NPD Group.  6 Jan. 2012.  Web.  24 Jan. 2012.]