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Record-Breaking Holidays Ahead for Tech: More Consumers Than Ever Plan to Give Technology Gifts This Season, Says CTA

Arlington, VA – October 11, 2016 – 

More U.S. consumers than ever – 68 percent, or roughly 170 million people – plan to buy technology gifts this holiday season, a six percent increase over last year, according to the latest annual research from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). The 23rd Annual Consumer Technology Holiday Purchase Patterns Study shows emerging technologies including drones, virtual reality and wearables will pervade holiday wish lists this year.
According to CTA’s holiday retail forecast, spending on tech will increase 3.1 percent to reach $36.05 billion during the 2016 holiday season. The forecast also shows overall retail sales in November and December, excluding gas and restaurant sales, are expected to increase a strong 3.8 percent to $824.8 billion year over year. CTA estimates total online holiday sales will grow by 16.4 percent to $84.2 billion, while online sales through mobile devices like smartphones and tablets will grow by 45.2 percent to $20.1 billion.
“The 2016 holiday season looks to be the biggest on record for the tech sector, thanks to fresh and innovative products on the market such as wearable tech, VR headsets, drones and digital assistant devices,” said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist, CTA. “Our research also finds that most Americans are now using tech devices to help them research and buy those tech gifts.”
What Consumers Want, and How They’ll Find it
CTA’s study found more than half (57 percent, up two percentage points) of consumers are likely to shop for tech online this year. Physical stores remain the main source of tech gift purchases, with 74 percent of consumers likely to purchase from a brick-and-mortar location – down three percentage points from last year.
Once again, CTA expects headphones (40 percent) to be the most popular tech gift given this year, driven in part by tech industry movement toward wireless audio devices. The tech products U.S. consumers most want to receive as gifts are laptops, TVs, smartphones, tablets and videogame consoles.

Emerging Tech on More Wish Lists than Ever
A record-high number of consumers plan to buy a new, emerging technology product as a gift this holiday season. The most popular gifts among emerging tech will be:

  • Wearables (27 percent of consumers plan to buy), led by smart watches (17 percent) and fitness activity trackers (15 percent)

  • Smart home devices (24 percent), including smart thermostats (10 percent) and digital assistant devices such as Amazon’s Echo (six percent)

  • Connected or digital toys (11 percent)

  • VR headsets (10 percent),  with several tech leaders introducing VR headsets to the market, CTA projects sales of 700,000 during the holiday season

  • Drones (nine percent), with projected sales of about 1.2 million units this holiday season (up 112 percent over 2015)

How will the Presidential Election Impact the Holiday?
While the 2016 holiday shopping season is shaping up to be a record-breaker in terms of both overall retail spending and tech purchases specifically, some consumer apprehension remains. Among consumers who report planning to spend less on gifts this holiday season, the reasons cited include not having the money (60 percent), increased cost of living (57 percent) and fixed income (54 percent). Additionally, 38 percent cite concerns about the presidential election outcome among reasons they plan to spend less this season. 
“The holiday shopping season has been steadily creeping earlier and earlier into the year, but we expect to see a delay in the barrage of holiday promotions this year until after the presidential election,” said DuBravac. “This election will impact not only when consumers begin to shop but, potentially, how much they spend.” 
CTA Holiday Research
To keep up to date with all of CTA’s holiday research throughout the season, visit CTA will release the Pre-Black Friday Survey results on Nov. 10 at CES Unveiled New York, and its annual Post Black Friday Survey results during the Thanksgiving weekend on Nov. 27 during a media call.
The 23rd Annual Consumer Technology Holiday Purchase Patterns Study was designed and formulated by CTA Market Research, the most comprehensive source of sales data, forecasts, consumer research and historical trends for the consumer technology industry. CTA fielded the survey in September 2016 using a telephone sample of 1,005 U.S. adults (18+). The report comes at no cost for CTA members and is available at