Do you hear what I hear?

The sound of sales ringing through the tills? Well it’s not always headphones and earbuds going over the counter, as the pandemic saw the market slow down, but as technology moves rapidly forward retailers should keep their ear to the ground and listen to consumer trends. Jack Cheeseman reports.

times such as running, home workouts and also working from home have provided a new avenue of demand for these products. Consumers are increasingly looking for


products which offer not only a premium listening experience, but also innovative smart features that provide greater usability and convenience. Yet there are mixed reviews in terms of the success of this category; the manufacturers that spoke to ERT for this feature said headphones, headsets and earbuds have seen incredible growth, with many looking to “escape” from reality over the

past 16 months. LG reports that sales of earbuds are expected to reach a staggering 484.5 million by 2025.

Bowers & Wilkins PI7 model

he personal audio market is going through a tricky time. While people are not using headphones and earbuds for the usual activities such as commuting to work, other past

Mathew Garrett, on behalf of German

manufacturer, beyerdynamic, comments: “Thankfully, our experience of the pandemic has been positive and we’ve actually seen an increase in headphone sales. We believe this is due to people wanting to heighten their listening experience at home, as well starting new hobbies such as music production and content creation.” With the rise of video calls during the

pandemic the use of noise cancelling headphones has increased. Many now offer good sound and crystal clear microphones and are far less bulky than a traditional desk-phone headset. They offer the same features but are smaller, lighter and offer more flexible features, so people can use the same pair for multiple activities. However, data from GfK reflects a different

overall picture. The headphones market failed to reach 10 million units in 2020 for the first time in almost 10 years… “confirmation that lockdown did not encourage consumers to spend liberally, as was the case with many other consumer electronics markets,” explains Nick Simon, Client Director – Market Intelligence at GfK.

“Volumes have been falling significantly for a

long time,” he says. “There is still activity across all price bands, but there was a big shift between 2019 and 2020 falling from £200 to £100-£150, in particular in the True Wireless category, which now accounts for two thirds of market turnover.” While True Wireless (TW) reigns supreme,

there’s more emphasis now on Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), and models combined with a ‘sport’ function are now edging towards 90 per cent of TW turnover. In addition, Mr Simon reports that Bluetooth headband products were still finding favour in the first half of 2021 and should not be overlooked. James Attfield, MD of Turnstone AV (which

distributes Ausounds in the UK), is of a similar opinion, saying that while headphone sales have levelled out, and may have dropped slightly, “average price points remain healthy, so there is still money to be made in selling headphones”. “TW models are ideal for use in the office; this

remains an important growth area of the headphone market and is one that retailers should be capitalising on.”

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