Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holiday retail sales disappoint, though anecdotal evidence point to good sales for the Kindle and the iPad mini

It will probably be another week or two before we start hearing reports from the tablet makers on holiday sales. For now the early reports of sales overall are not good, with credit card companies saying that sales have been disappointing.

According to the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse report, holiday sales for the past two months before Christmas increased 0.7 percent compared to 2011. That increase was the worst sales increase since 2008 when the country was officially in recession.

Retailers are blaming bad weather – as if the weather is always good in winter – as well as economic uncertainly. But, let's face it, we're not exactly in a booming economy.

But if you were in the market for a tablet for Christmas there were plenty of choices, maybe even too many choices, according to some retailers I spoke to.

According to several Best Buy managers I spoke to, the big winner this year was the Kindle, including the Kindle Fire. Best Buy heavily promoted the tablet, and the low cost of Amazon's offerings probably went a long way towards driving sales.

None of the retail employees I spoke to could name another tablet that flew off the shelves other than the iPad. Well, the iPad mini, in particular.

My local Best Buy no longer has any stock of the mini. But what about the other iPad models?

"The iPad is getting confusing," one store employee told me. "It used to be that there was the iPad. Now we sell the iPad, the new iPad and the iPad 2. The iPad mini is easy to understand, the others not so much."

Apple, it seems, has done the one thing Steve Jobs hated: fragmented the device market in such a way that consumers are confused as to what it is they are buying. And confused consumers tend to delay purchasing. (While Amazon has a whole like of Kindles, there appears to be less confusion between models.)

Rumors are now beginning to surface about a new iPad for launch in March, the traditional time for a new iPad to launch. At this point the only changes to the new iPad mentioned are that it would be lighter and thinner. Maybe it will be invisible.

The good news is that the tablet market is maturing to the point where there are lots of choices. The bad news is that developers of media applications have to begin wondering if their standard practice of developing for Apple's iOS first, others later, still is a good way to go. Apple's product fragmentation, iTunes and App Store issues, and higher prices may have finally added up to another company breaking through to become a real alternative to iOS.

1 Comment:

Sarah said...

Tablets were on the top of the list for both of my teens. I wound up getting one myself and love how it can be used to shop online or as a mobile device on-the-go. I am wondering if fewer people are shopping in-person, since I did a lot of my shopping online this year and last year.