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Monster festive season for Apple predicted

Consumer Electronics spending is up for the Chrismas holidays and will exceed last year's tally, according to a November ChangeWave survey of 2,812 U.S. consumers. Much of the market's buoyancy is being driven by Apple, which ChangeWave researchers say is having the "most explosive" holiday season in its history.

The survey took a close-up look at home entertainment shopping for the holidays, including consumer demand for laptops, desktops, iPads and other personal gadgets – and some of America's biggest electronics retailers.

More than a quarter of respondents (26%) said they’ll spend more on consumer electronics over the next 90 days and only 29% say less — representing a nine-point increase from last month and a net three-point advance over the metric from a year ago (Nov 2009).

Boom in Laptop Buying
The survey also revealed a substantial increase in laptop purchasing intentions, with an impressive 10 per cent of respondents saying they’ll buy a laptop in the next 90 days — two points greater than last month and matching the highest level of laptop acquisitiveness in three years of ChangeWave surveys.

The manufacturer most responsible for this surge in laptop demand is Apple, with 36% of planned laptop buyers saying they’ll purchase a Mac – representing a huge 11-point spike since since ChangeWave's previous survey of a month ago (Oct ’10). This chart shows how dramatic a rise that actually is.

Simply put, it’s the highest level of planned laptop buying ever for Apple in a ChangeWave survey.

So to what can this tsunami of laptop momentum be attributed? The timing would indicate that Apple has a runaway market hit on its hands with the redesigned MacBook Air line that was released on October 20, featuring a slimmer design, powerful graphics, multi-touch glass touchpads and standard solid state flash memory — a vertigo-inducing turnaround from the lacklustre sales performance of the original edition MacBook Air. THe enhanced value of a substantially enhanced feature set combined with significant price cutting has evidently not gone unn oticed by consumers.

Consequently, the ChangeWave analysts contend that while the jump in overall PC sales is welcome news for the entire computer manufacturing industry, the surge in Apple laptop demand is not.

For example, the percentage of buyers who say they’ll purchase a Dell laptop (19%) has dropped four points since last month to its lowest level ever in a ChangeWave survey. (the survey abstract notes that that only 20% of Dell’s PC business is made up of consumer sales, with the the other 80% corporate).

Similarly, Hewlett-Packard laptops have suddenly also come under pressure, with just 22 per cent saying they’ll purchase an HP Laptop – also four points fewer than last month. (NB: this survey focuses only on the U.S. market, while 70 per cent of HP computer sales occur outside the U.S).

However, on a slightly more cheerful note for the Windows PC vendors, ChangeWave says that despite these laptop pressures, overall Holiday demand for Dell and HP desktops remains relatively strong.

Not the case however with netbooks, PC market segment of the that continues to struggle, with just 14 per cent of those planning to buy a laptop indicating it will be a Netbook, representing a 10 point drop ove the past 18 months.

In terms of individual electronics items, ChangeWave says the Apple iPad tablet is shaping up to be "the clear monster hit this holiday season," with 9 per cent of survey respondents saying they’ll buy one in the next 90 days.

This chart, focusing specifically on personal gadgets and home entertainment, shows which of the following items respondents plan on buying for themselves or for someone else during the next 90 days.

Observations in this category indicate that Apple iPods (5%), aren’t showing the momentum they did last year. Also on the downside of holiday purchase planning are Televisions (16%) and Digital Cameras (12%) both lower than last year.

And while overall consumer electronics spending is up — which is good news for Amazon — the percentage of Kindle e-Reader (4%) planned purchases remains unchanged compared to a year ago.

An analysis examining the main reasons for these developments will be presented in a follow-up ChangeWave report next week that will focus on the impact of the Apple iPad on the e-Reader market, as well as the Amazon Kindle.

In terms of ‘must have’ gifts for kids, Apple leads once again with three of the top five gifts for the holiday season – the iPad (22%), iPod/ iPod Touch (9%) and the iPhone (6%). Nintendo's Wii and DS (7%) and Microsoft's Xbox/ Kinect (6%) round out the top five.

While ChangeWave notes that the overall consumer electronics uptick is positive for home entertainment retailers generally, none is benefiting more than Apple (15%), which is up a huge four points in overall market share from a year ago with regard to where consumers say they’ll be shopping for their home entertainment products.

The ChangeWave survey was completed November 8, 2010, and includes holiday spending trends for a variety of other retailers including Best Buy, Amazon, Costco, and Wal-mart, among others.