Wireless Speakers Enabled by Personal Assistants

Amazon Echo and Google Home are two versions of wireless speakers that do more than play music. They are also voice-activated personal assistants. Some of their capabilities include adjusting a smart thermostat, turning lights on or off, arranging a ride through Uber, and delivering the news, sports, and weather. As prices have come down for these devices, in some cases retailing for less than $50, popularity has risen.

Today’s market size is the value of the market for voice-activated wireless speakers/personal assistants in 2015 and the projected value of the market in 2020 according to Gartner. The value of the market is expected to increase more than 5-fold in this 5-year period.

Geographic reference: World
Year: 2015 and projection for 2020
Market size: $360 million and a projected $2.1 billion respectively
Source: Ed Baig, “Google Home Plays Catch-Up to Echo, with Promise,” USA Today for the Lansing State Journal, November 6, 2016, page 6B
Original source: Gartner.

Expenditures on Reading Materials

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) carries out an annual survey of millions of households to track what they spend money on, by category. The resulting data has been collected over decades and seeing the trends that these data expose over time is very interesting.

The graph presented here is made with BLS data from this survey series. It shows inflation-adjusted household expenditures on all categories of entertainment, as well as two subsets of expenditures, (1) those for TVs, audio/video equipment and services, such as cable subscriptions and (2) expenditures for reading material. The full category of entertainment expenditures is broad and includes things such as:

—Fees to attend concerts, sporting events, movies, and sporting clubs/fraternal organizations.
—TVs, radios and other audio/video equipment as well as subscriptions for cable, premium TV and the like.
—Pets, toys and hobbies, as well as all the services and equipment related to those.
—Bikes, athletic shoes, and equipment for camping, exercising, fishing, and all sports, as well as boats and docking fees, fireworks, pinball machines and video consoles.

Today’s market size is the average spent by U.S. households on reading material in 1994 and in 2011. The figures do not include expenditures for any textbooks or reading material purchased as part of a formal educational program. The transition to digital which is taking place in most areas of publishing is not well tracked by this BLS survey series. It is unclear from studying the survey results, for example, whether or not all online subscriptions to newspapers and magazines are consistently captured in the expenditure category “Reading.” Over time this will change as time allows data collection organizations, like the BLS, to adjust to the digital transition. Data collection organizations can only adjust as quickly as the industries they cover—in this case, the publishing industry—adjust to such dramatic changes.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 1994 and 2011
Market size: $165 and $115 respectively. These figures translate to a national gross household spending on reading materials for each of those years of $16.86 billion and $14.06 billion respectively
Source: “Consumer Expenditure Survey,” Multiyear Tables: 1992-99 Multiyear Table, 2000-05 Multiyear Table, and 2006-11 Multiyear Table, all available on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website here.
Original source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditure Surveys
Posted on May 9, 2013

Electronics Stores

Our graph from Census Bureau data

While working on an analysis of the retail and wholesale sectors of the U.S. economy, a somewhat surprising thing emerged. The four fastest growing categories of brick-and-mortar stores, based on annual growth rates from 1992–2010 were: (1) Used Car Dealerships, (2) Health and Personal Care Stores, (3) Pharmacies and, (4) Radio, TV, and Other Electronics Stores. The last of these surprised us a bit, given the fact that such a large portion of the sale of electronics has moved online and the fact that the demise of a prominent player in the sector, Circuit City, seems pretty fresh in the mind.

As it turns out, the important trend behind the strength of this retail sector is the rise of cell phones and all the new cell phone stores that one sees in shopping centers and strip malls across the United States. Cell phone stores are part of the category “Radio, Television and Other Electronics Stores” (NAICS 443112), the fastest growing sector in the overall Electronics and Appliance Retail industry (NAICS 443).

The graph shows annual sales from Radio, TV, and Cell Phone Stores in the United States from 1992–2011 and cell phone subscription figures for the period 1992–2010.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 1992 and 2011
Market size: $20.5 billion and $58.3 billion respectively
Source: Annual Retail Trade Survey 2010, with updates from the Monthly Retail Trade Report series, available online here. The cell phone subscriber data are from the Statistical Abstract of the United States 2012, Table 1149, available from here.
Original source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census
Posted on August 21, 2012

Headphone Market

The arrival of a new, high-end, expensive and very fashionable headphone has stirred up the market for headphones. Headphones are a reasonably mature product segment which was infused with energy over recent years by earbuds that are commonly used with MP3 players of all sorts as well as cell phones and other small recording devices. But it was the arrival on the scene of the headphone, Beats by Dr. Dre, that reinvigorated the market most recently, the sales of which account for nearly a quarter of the market size listed below. Celebrity meets audio equipment and the market expands. Increased hearing loss in adolescents may be part of the unseen price being paid.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2011
Market size: $2 billion
Source: “Headphones With Swagger (and Lots of Bass),” The New York Times, Sunday, November 20, 2011, page B1, available online here. Also, “One in Five U.S. Adolescents Has Hearing Loss, Researchers Find,”
Bloomberg.com, August 17, 2010, available online here.
Original source: NPD Group and Journal of the American Medical Association
Posted on November 21, 2011