The festive season always stirs up memories of decorated trees, Christmas carols and family dinners where everybody eats too much. But while many people take it easy over the break, it is one of the busiest times of the year for the consumer IT channel. In an attempt to maximise sales opportunities, the shelves will be stuffed with MP3 players, digital cameras and gadgets galore.
Harvey Norman computers division general manager, John Slack-Smith, said the digital music player category would be enormous during the Christmas rush.
He predicted Apple's iPod and competing products, as well as accessories, would be the most sought after consumer items for the second year running.
Managing director of Plus Corporation, Nigel Fernandes, said the Sydney-based reseller was hoping to receive its iPod nano and video stock in the first week of November. "People are coming back to buy accessories for their iPods, which allows us to make some margin," he said.
Belkin marketing and sales director, Kannyn MacRae, said iPod nano cases would hit big volumes this Christmas.
They would address widespread users concerns that the new product line scratched too easily, he said. Other accessories include FM transmitters and car chargers.
Harvey's Slack-Smith said the recently released PlayStation Portable (PSP) would also be a big seller. "The market potential is enormous," he said. "The PSP has had the most successful pre-sales campaign since Windows 95."
More surprisingly, Slack-Smith predicted some emerging technologies, such as the Navman portable global positioning systems for in-car navigation, would be on Christmas wish lists.
"It won't be huge growth from a volume point of view, but these will be a consideration for a number of clients," he said.
"We look for categories that are getting big quarter-on-quarter growth and extrapolate what this might mean for Christmas. These will be surprising."
Slack-Smith forecast gaming software for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC would again bring in solid revenue. But he claimed gaming consoles would not experience a huge growth spike in the last month of the year because many were holding out for the launch of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2006.
"You always have a certain quantity sold at Christmas as they're a traditional present," he said. "But we won't see the same peaks as years gone by."
Fernandes forecast large LCD and TFT monitors would be among Plus Corp's more popular lines. Other components expected to trade well included the new CrossFire ATI video cards.
Leading Edge Computers marketing manager, Stuart Buxton, said the reseller buying group would focus on a broader range of exclusive products to differentiate itself.
He also predicted displays, along with one-touch storage, would be a huge opportunity for its stores.
"The entry of LCD TVs for under $1000 will drive penetration of these products," he said.
TechBuy managing director, Colin Mead, said it was banking on digital cameras to fuel the Christmas sales cycle. The Sydney-based online reseller struck a deal with Telstra last month to compile six camera and photo printer bundles for its BigPond member network.
Mead said the first would be a Canon A410 digital camera and Pixma 6220D printer for $399. It was also creating similar bundles using Lexmark printers.
"We are using these as a loss leader to get BigPond users to our site," he said. "Our infrastructure can handle double our average turnover [3000 orders per month] without any trouble. If we get orders from just one per cent, it's still about 9000 products."
Canon is also planning to unleash a selection of digital camera and printer product bundles this Christmas. Marketing manager, Stuart Poignand, said it had developed two main offerings which would be available from November 1. This included a Canon A410 camera with a Selphy CP510 photo printer. The pack would retail for $298, representing a saving of $210.
Peripherals to do well
The second package included a Powershot A520 digital camera with Pixma iP6210D printer for $398, saving consumers $130. Canon would also be offering cash rebates on a selection of digital video cameras, Poignand said.
"The advantage for resellers is that they are selling the product at the higher retail price with the margin - the discount will be paid by Canon," he said.
Other vendors highlighted sub-$100 peripheral products to suit the price conscious gift buyer. Logitech general manager, Marco Manera, predicted Web cams would top last year's Christmas sales. Product pricing had fallen, with quality models now available for as little as $69, he said. Other drivers included the accelerated take-up of domestic broadband and a massive surge in consumer notebook sales during the second quarter of the year.
"Notebook sales are through the roof but resellers are complaining that prices are falling faster than rising unit sales," he said. "They are looking for additional accessories."
TOP 10 PRODUCT LIST FOR CHRISTMAS
1. iPod Nano MP3 player (2GB model: $299) 2. Sony PlayStation Portable ($399) 3. Canon Ixus 50 5.0 mexapixel digital camera ($499) 4. Logitech QuickCam for Notebooks ($79) 5. Belkin iPod nano Carabineer case ($39.95) 6. Iomega Micro Mini hard drive (4GB - $229; 8GB - $299) 7. BenQ FP 202W widescreen LCD monitor (TBC) 8. Acer TravelMate 4062WLMi with Pentium M 1.73GHz Centrino ($1499) 9. Unwired wireless broadband kit ($189) * 10. Navman ICN 320 GPS system ($649)