Let’s be frank, it’s been a while since there were any really exciting category developments in consumer electronics. Tablets? They’ve been on the scene for four years now and well embedded in the mainstream. Audio? Okay, credit where credit’s due when it comes to the likes of Sonos’ connect audio systems but the speaker category is hardly something new.
But to the delight of consumer electronics (CE) retailers everywhere, there are two new kids on the block that are making waves across the CE floorspace. Both, “wearable” and “fitness” are the hottest buzzwords in tech right now and are seeing a surge in demand from early adopters who have already begun spreading the word which means we should see both categories edge towards the mainstream by Christmas 2014. CE retailers everywhere rejoice!
Currently, fitness bands are the latest must-have and for good reason. They combine wearable and fitness in one neat little product that is worn, usually, on the wrist. These devices track the wearer’s daily activity, calories burned, sleep patterns, etc. In essence, they are fancy (and sometimes expensive) pedometers but their sleek designs and relevance to the modern lifestyle makes them highly attractive to the tech-savvy consumer.
Data the devices collect is synced to the user’s smartphone, tablet or online account for personal tracking and analysis via Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi. The most popular brand in this arena – Fitbit – has a handle on nearly 50% of the global market for basic wearable tech bands in the first quarter of 2014, according to market research firm Canalys.
That said, all manufacturers involved in fitness bands are relatively new to the arena and thus we’re seeing new names like Jawbone and Pebble racing to grab market share by expanding their international presence. Bigger names like Sony and Samsung are, of course, also getting in on the action early too; though at the moment they appear to be losing out to the smaller start-ups. Nike has already been named as the first big casualty after news spread that it would stop producing its Fuelband to focus on its software platform. The cause of this decision was lacklustre sales and a resulting drop in market share to less than 10%.
In my job I spend a fair amount of time in CE stores and so far instore shelf space dedicated to fitness bands has been minimal to non-existent. However, I’m definitely expecting this to change in the lead up to the holiday season later in the year as demand increases and stocking fillers are needed. In fact, I’ve already bought one as a soon-to-given gift (while secretly hoping the favour will be returned next birthday).
Louise Howarth is a Senior Retail Analyst based in London and specialises in the consumer electronics retail industry.