Mac sales may hit record highs despite decline in consumer spending

Posted by Christian Zibreg

Chicago (IL) – Rising energy and food prices may finally show their ugly face in the retail space, as consumers are adjusting their spending, ChangeWave suggests. It’s once again the time for discount retailers, which will grab market share from established chains, the market research firm said. Consumer electronics spending will be weak over the next 90 days, according to the forecast, but it seems that Apple might see little impact – and some of its products may actually see record sales.  

ChangeWave's monthly consumer surveys tend to be among the more accurate consumer spending indicators. Its August results hints to a slowing economy with declines in overall consumer spending, although consumer confidence has slightly improved. The research firm polled 4416 consumers in August, asking them what consumer electronics they plan to purchases in next 90 days. ChangeWave found that buying habits are shifting, at least for home entertainment and consumer electronics products: Retailers like Wal-Mart and Costco are likely gain market share from electronics-centric chains such as Best Buy or Circuit City, which is apparently to more price consciousness of the average U.S. consumer.

Best Buy is expected to remain the top retailer with 40% of respondents saying they plan to purchase their gadgets at Best Buy over the next 90 days, followed by Costco (26%), Amazon (20%), Wal-Mart (17%) and Sam's Club (10%). Compared to last year, Best Buy dipped by 3 percentage points, while Wal-Mart, Costco, Amazon and Sam's Club climbed 6, 5, 5 and 3 percentage points, respectively.

When asked about their electronics purchases over the next 90 days, 15% of the surveyed responded they will spend more money and 34% plan to spend less money. In August 2007, almost a quarter (24%) said they would spend more and 30% opted to spend less.

Computer sales may be sailing into rough seas. Only 8% plan to buy a laptop in the next 90 days, while just 5% will purchase a desktop in the period, both down 2 points from the August 2007 period. The only bright spot is Apple. Mac sales are set for a new all-time high over the next 90 days as 34% of respondents said they plan to purchase a Mac laptop over the next 90 days, up 6 points over the year-ago period. Mac desktops are also strong: 30% said they plan to buy an Apple desktop, up 3 points from one month ago period and up 7 points over August 2007.

Apple's online store is also poised for strong growth, with 8% of respondents planning to spend "more money" on purchases on Apple.com, while only 4% said they plan to spend "less money." ChangeWave said these figures make Apple's online store "far and away the biggest winner" among all online shops mentioned by the respondents. The research also reveals the real-life effects of the so-called iPhone/iPod halo effects on Mac sales. When asked whether the iPhone 3G has made respondents more or less likely to buy a Mac in the future, 17% said they're now more likely and only 1% said less likely.

Rivals from the PC camp saw less impressive survey results. 28% of respondents said they are planning on buying a Dell desktop or notebook (down from 32% from laptops and up from 25% for desktops). The numbers for HP systems are 20% for laptops (down by 4 points) and 17% for desktops (down 3 points).