Magazine Article


A Very Digital Christmas

Digital Cameras Beat Out DVD Players As Top CE Holiday Gift This Year

Gary Shapiro of CEA is bullish on digital cameras. Photo by Dan Havlik

Marking a milestone in the photo retail market, the digital camera has replaced the DVD player as the top "planned gift" for the holiday season, according to a new survey from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

The leap past DVD players for the top spot was sparked by a surge in consumer awareness of digital cameras in 2004, according to results from CEA's 11th Annual Holiday Sales and Forecast Survey. Consumer interest in digicams increased by five points from last year, moving from 24 percent to 29 percent. At the same time, consumer interest in buying DVD players declined by six points from 2003, dropping from 31 percent to 25 percent.

Digital cameras also did well in the "desired gift items" category of the survey, finishing second only to plasma TVs as items consumers most wanted to receive as presents this holiday. Even better for the entire consumer electronics market, 76 percent of consumers planned to put CE products at the top of their shopping lists this holiday season, according to the survey.

Whether consumers will be fighting in the aisles over digital cameras like they did in a notorious incident over bargain basement DVD players last year, remains to be seen. Recent interest in digital cameras in the CE channel though is sure to be reflected in next year's International Consumer Electronics Show set for January 6-9 2005 in Las Vegas. At least that was the buzz at a special press preview for the 2005 CES held in New York City in November.

At a "CEA Holiday Product Showcase" in a packed hotel suite during the press preview, at least half of the items on display had some kind of digital imaging component to them. Featured products hand-picked by CEA for display included the Fuji FinePix E550 digital camera; the Fisher Pocket Cameracorder, an MPEG-4 Camcorder/3.2MP Digital Camera; and the Philips Wearable Digital Camera, a small, keychain size 2MP digital camera.

"I picked these out because they represent what people are buying," said Jim Barry, a CEA spokesperson, standing beside a table of CE products. "I also chose them simply because they're new and cool."

In his remarks at the press preview, Gary Sharpiro, president and CEO of CEA, described CES as the "world's largest electronics show for Consumers and the largest annual event in the Americas." He added that CES's success has been fueled by a continuing interest in this country in consumer electronics products.

"There's a love affair Americans have with our products," Sharpiro said. "And it's fueled by hot new products in digital imaging, DVDs, MP3s and even PCs."

According to recent CEA statistics, total U.S. factory sales of CE products are slated to eclipse $108 billion this year, much of that coming from the holiday selling season. The typical U.S. household is expected to spend an average of $600 on gifts this year, for a total of $63 billion nationwide.

Over 120,000 people are expected to attend CES 2005 in January. To handle the increased volume during the show at McCarren Airport—which has become something of a traveler's nightmare for CES attendess—the TSA and the International CES are working with airport officials to improve security check-in procedures by building seven new checkpoint lanes and hiring more than 300 personnel. Some additional personnel will serve as "front-loaders" at the checkpoints to help travelers remove jackets and load belongs into the x-ray machines, said Karen Chupka, vice president of Events and Conferences for the International CES.

Plasma screens will also be installed throughout the airport with instructions on the "do's and don'ts" of airport check-in.

As of November, it was still questionable whether a new but troubled monorail will be up and running for CES. "Right now the monorail is closed indefinitely," Chupka said. "But we've always viewed the monorail as gravy to our transportation plan. We never thought of it as a major way to bring people to the show."