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Mac sales plummet by almost 17%, NPD reports

But price cuts aren't the answer, says retail analyst

March 17, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Apple Inc.'s retail sales, which fell by more than 5% in January, plummeted nearly 17% in February compared with the same month in 2008 as the company's high prices continued to take a toll, research company The NPD Group Inc. said today.

"They had a pretty crummy month," said NPD analyst Stephen Baker. "Some have noted that they had some tough year-to-year comparisons, but this is a little more concerning than just comparisons."

During February, Apple sold 16.7% fewer Macs than in February 2008, while PC sales, which account for the bulk of the computer market, were up a dramatic 22% year over year.

As he did last month, Baker blamed Apple's higher prices for its continuing sales slide. "I am concerned about their pricing. The $999 MacBook doesn't seem to have generated better numbers for Apple in the under-$1,500 part of the market. It hasn't really done what they were looking for it to do."

In October, when Apple launched its new all-aluminum "unibody" laptops, it also lowered the price of the older plastic-cased MacBook by $100 to $999.

"That means one of two things," said Baker. "Either the $999 price isn't cheap enough, or Apple buyers are simply deferring their purchases."

The drop in Apple's sales was largely the result of a turnaround in the fortunes of its MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks, which had until last month continued to post year-over-year gains. As recently as December 2008, Apple had sold over 20% more laptops than the year before. But in February, Apple's laptop sales fell by 7.5% compared with the year before, according to NPD's data. "This is the first time that we've seen some negative on the notebook side," said Baker.



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