In another sign that MP3 player has come of age, Creative has become the second music player vendor in a week to confirm it is casting its sales net beyond the reseller channel and into mass merchant land.
And analysts including GfK and IDC have confirmed that growth in the category has matured to the point where they will begin tracking the Australian MP3 market.
Creative will put its MP3 player products through distribution for the first time with the signing of Sydney-based distributor, Shriro.
The vendor had previously distributed direct, but wanted to beef up its retail presence, marketing manager, Nick Angelucci, said.
“They’re entrenched in bigger, white goods retailers,” Angelucci said.
The move follows Apple’s decision to launch its iPod music player into a handful of mass merchants including Kmart and Myer.
As mainstream acceptance of MP3 players has grown – helped by Apple’s aggressive marketing of the iPod – Angelucci said they had moved from being a niche geek toy to a mainstream product sold through mass merchants.
But Creative expects its sales to grow through resellers as well.
While the retail channel already accounted for about 60 per cent of its MP3 player sales, Angelucci expected the reseller channel could claw back to 50 per cent over the course of the year.
Resellers had become more receptive to the MP3 player once it had found a sweet spot in the market, Angelucci said.
The $99 price point had helped sales for the November and December Christmas period: “What sells most is not the $600 MP3 player, but the $99 one.”
Distributor Tech Pacific, which is taking aim at the digital home market, said its small but growing MP3 player market was currently being driven by resellers.
“It’s probably more the retail shop fronts,” peripherals category manager, Josh Velling, said.
Tech Pac would target retailers with music players from vendors including Ben Q to try to increase the category's mass market presence this year, he said.
While other music player formats – including Sony’s Mini Disc, and the portable CD player – were still on the market, Angelucci said the portable music market was migrating towards MP3 or other digital formats, stored in player or PC memory.
“[Sales of] MP3 CD players have declined, there was a shift late last year,” Angelucci said.