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Camera sales: March to quality continues

September 30, 2010: The latest Canon Consumer Digital Lifestyle Index (CDLI) shows digital imaging holding its own against other technology lifestyle categories, but with a distinct change in the product mix.

The CDLI is independently compiled for Canon by GfK Retail and Technology Australia (GfK) based on both GfK’s retail audit panel and ConsumerScope tracking services.

GfK says its retail tracking data represents 100 percent of the Australian market, ‘as a result of extrapolation whereby GfK estimates the portions of the market for which it does not have access to actual sales data from retailers.’ (GfK does not measure the online channel, for instance).

Over the last six months the CDLI shows Australians’ appetite for digital lifestyle products is still healthy, with $3.27 billion spent in the first half of 2010. The total value of products actually reduced by 4.6 percent, from $3.43 billion in 1H 2009.

GfK attributed the fall to the cumulative effects of six consecutive interest rate rises, global uncertainty concerning economic growth, and the winding back of the significant economic stimulus measures that had supported 1H 2009 results.

‘The latest Canon CDLI confirms that Australian consumers still love buying new technology despite the uncertainly in the global economy, and the trend towards high-image-quality products we found in previous reports has continued in 1H 2010,’ said Darren Ryan, general manager – Consumer Product Marketing, Canon Australia.

In digital still cameras, increased demand for digital cameras offering higher image quality offset a decline in unit sales of low-end digital cameras to produce an overall increase of 2 percent. Reflecting the move towards higher image quality, DSLR cameras grew by 6 percent in volume terms from 1H 2009 to 1H 2010 as consumers continued to move towards cameras offering higher image quality and greater creative options.

When asked what the most important factor was when buying a new digital camera, recent camera buyers rate ‘image quality’ as the most important, and have been doing so for a long time. This focus on quality is being generated by the increase in the level of engagement with digital imaging that Australians are exhibiting, the report argues.

Digital cameras and camcorders contributed a combined 10.5 percent (down 0.4 percent on 1H 2009) of revenue, while MFDs accounted for 2.7 percent (no change) of total CDLI revenue.

More cameras more often

A large proportion of recent CDLI product purchases are for an additional device (eg, an additional TV for the bedroom or another camera (18 percent of compact cameras and 27 percent of DSLRs were ‘additional’).

‘One of the new and important trends to emerge… is a shift towards complementary device usage where consumers are purchasing more, and more often to maximise the variety of options available for watching, creating and sharing content,’ said Ryan.

Further, the purchase cycle for cameras, TVs and PCs has shortened compared to a year earlier. For example, in 1H 2009, 17 percent of camera purchasers who had a camera previously stated that they acquired their previous camera less than 2 years ago. Only 12 months later (in 1H 2010), 22 percent of camera buyers state they acquired their previous camera less than 2 years ago.

Moreover, the now accepted HD video feature on most compact and many DSLR cameras also shifts the landscape in that consumers can seamlessly migrate from HD content shot on their cameras to the HD screen in the living room.

Further, the Canon CDLI found that communicating through images has become increasingly important, with Australians taking more photos than ever – 111 pictures per month on average (up 26 percent compared with 1H 2008).

Image printing also continues to be important in the digital imaging lifestyle, with home printers being the most frequently used method of photo printing, according to the GfK data.

Social media is responsible for a strong drive to connect by sharing photos online (40 percent of people now upload photos to the Internet and Facebook is the most popular destination).

‘We are also finding that many consumers are at the tipping point of pushing through from the compact camera category (point and click) and migrating to the more involved category of cameras in the DSLR category, which offers users greater creative potential and the ultimate in image quality.

‘The digitisation and proliferation of media platforms, the availability of affordable high-quality devices and the skyrocketing popularity of social media sites means there’s everything to suggest that discretionary spending for consumer technology will remain robust as we head into the peak shopping season,’ said Ryan.

While the camcorder category overall dropped fairly dramatically, sales of camcorders with solid state memory increased by 63 percent in volume terms (now the dominant format at 61 percent of total camcorder unit sales) and Full HD camcorder unit volumes grew by 21 percent as the trend towards high-quality image capture continued.

In the printing categories, Single-Function Inkjet Printers gave up 15 percent of their revenues. In recent years, the inkjet printer category has formed into clearly identifiable sub-categories:
– MFDs (All-in-Ones) offering broad functionality and convenience have benefited from consumers migrating away form single-function printers in the main;
– Single function printers offering specialised print options such as pigment or dye inks, media handling up to A3+ size and precise colour matching—have become largely the domain of enthusiast photographers wanting to establish a digital darkroom at home.

Compact photo printers continue to languish with a miniscule market share.

The appeal of advanced TVs was especially evident in the last three months of the Canon CDLI reporting period, where the volume of Full HD 1080P models grew by a massive 112 percent, compared with the same period in 2009.

Key digital lifestyle trends to emerge from the report include:
– Australians increased their digital device purchases from an average of 2.13 per person in 1H 2009 to 2.41 devices per person in 1H 2010, indicating a behavioural trend of complementary device usage;
– 67 percent of Australians now use their PC/notebooks in the living/lounge room;
– Internet TV (IPTV) viewing almost doubled in the 6 months to 1H 2010, from 2.6 percent to 4.7 percent;
– We are watching more TV content on PCs (22 percent in 1H 2010; up from 13 percent 6 months earlier).
– We also watch more TV on TVs (4.5 hrs per day in 1H 2010; up from 3.5 hours per day in 2H 2009);
– ‘Image quality’ ranks as the #1 priority among digital camera buyers;
– We’re taking more photos than ever before (111 per/month), up 26 percent compared with 1H 2008;
– Social media is encouraging increased usage and creative applications for digital imaging, with 2 in 5 people uploading photos to the Internet (Facebook being the most popular destination at 1 in 3).

A full copy of the report is available here.

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