Notebooks outsell desktops for the first time in U.S.

Computer retailers posted a 13.6% sales increase in May compared with a year ago

U.S. retailers in May made more money selling notebook computers than they did selling desktops, according to sales results from The NPD Group's point-of-sale tracking service. It's the first time that notebooks have outsold desktops in the U.S.

In addition, Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD said unit sales of flat-screen LCD monitors surpassed the sales of older-style tube-based CRTs for the first time.

NPD said those milestones occurred as U.S. retailers selling computer products posted their best year-over-year sales in nearly four years, jumping 13.6% over May 2002.

"It is fitting that these milestones should occur together, as they are both important components in the increased movement of the PC out of the home office and into everyday use," said Stephen Baker, director of industry analysis at NPD, in a statement. He said the key to the increase in sales was consumers' desire for computing products that offer portability and attractive designs at good prices.

"Selling prices fell below $1,300 for the first time ever, more than $250 below May 2002, even while 80% of notebooks sported 15-inch screens and 86% provided customers with a CD burner," Baker said.

According to NPD, notebook computer sales volumes have been closing the sales gap with desktop models during the past four years.

In January 2000, NPD said, notebooks represented less than 25% of sales volume. By May of this year, notebooks represented 54% of the nearly $500 million dollar in retail computer sales a month.

LCD sales volumes have been steadily rising since flat-panel screens became affordable for many consumers approximately two years ago, NPD said.

Flat-panel monitors, which are more expensive than CRT monitors, accounted for 52% of unit sales in May and more than 70% of sales dollars, according to NPD. Those numbers are in stark contrast to figures in May 2002, when unit volumes were only 22% of total monitor sales and revenue for LCDs was only 40% of the total.

"LCDs' slim profile and sleek looks are more appealing and more 'home-electronics' looking than the bulky CRTs traditionally sold with PCs," Baker said.

He said consumers were willing to spend more money to buy LCDs. Baker said the average LCD price was $467, compared with the average CRT price of $250.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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