Electronics withstand consumer confidence dip

Apple employees carry boxes of new iPads that went on sale for the first time around the world on March 16, 2012 in New York City.

Stacey Vanek Smith: The Conference Board reports this morning consumer confidence dipped in March. The reason?  High gas prices and worries about inflation. Since the recession hit, we just haven't been shopping like we used to -- unless we're talking about electronics.

Here to talk about that with us is Carl Howe, vice president of the Yankee Group. Good morning, Carl.

Carl Howe: Hi, how are you?

Smith: One of the reasons, of course, that consumer confidence is seen as so important is that it affects retail sales. Those have been really hammered over the past few years -- except for electronics. Why is that? Why are people buying electronics even as they are not buying other things?

Howe: I think people have been sacrificing during the recession to buy mobile technology. In many ways, these mobile devices are freedom to many of us. We don't have to sit around our house waiting for a phone call. And a lot of consumers have seen them as valuable; worth sacrificing for. What we see now though, is we're starting to see those pretty good numbers increase even more, and we're seeing dramatic upticks in some of these devices in 2012.

Smith: If you don't mind breaking the category down for us a little bit -- because these days electronics is a very varied category -- what are some of the trends that we've been seeing within electronics?

Howe: The more dramatic growth has actually been in mobile devices, such as iPhones and e-readers. Perhaps the category that's been most dramatic, though, is tablets. Last year, only about 16 percent of consumers intended to buy a tablet within the next six months; this year, that number is up to 22 percent -- so we're looking at one in five consumers planning to buy a tablet in the next six months.

Smith: Carl Howe is the vice president of the Yankee Group. Carl, thanks for speaking with us.

Howe: Always a pleasure.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

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