China Still Number One in Consumer Electronics

Shift to intelligent manufacturing bodes well for China’s future

Worldwide consumer electronics sales grew 0.4% in 2016 and are on course to witness similar growth in 2017, according to market insight from Futuresource Consulting. The strongest performance came from mobile, which grew 4% or $14.2bn to $338bn in 2016, accounting for 50% of total CE revenues, with smartphones surpassing 1.6bn units.

According to Futuresource, home appliances are also benefiting from the economic development of lowpenetrated markets, such as China and India. Laundry and refrigeration shipments are forecast to increase by 3.9% in 2017, reaching 256m units (trade value e71.7bn). TV/ AV sales fell 1.3% to e108.3bn in 2016, equating to 19% of total CE revenues. However this headline figure disguises big gains in the home audio and headphones categories, adding e2.7bn in sales between them.

Geographically, the key player in the CE sector is still China, both in terms of its domestic demand for products and its export success. Futuresource says China’s CE market will decline in value by -5% in 2017, due to an overall trend of declining CE average trade prices. But it also advises that OLED TVs are set to experience 60% volume growth in 2017. Wireless Speakers will see the second greatest increase in demand, with a 37.4% increase in volume. Smartphones remain China’s largest segment of the Consumer Electronics market, accounting for 77% of trade values. A 2% increase in shipments is forecast for 2017.

Euromonitor International’s assessment of the market is similar, with the company highlighting a trend towards higher end products in China. “Chinese consumers have shown strong interest in devices with smarter functions, such as smart TVs and smart wearables. Moreover, they tend to purchase high-end products to meet certain demands. Consumers who want to maintain high standards in home entertainment are willing to purchase televisions with higher definition and bigger screens. Meanwhile, rising disposable incomes and continued product innovation will lead the trading-up trend in consumer electronics.” Still in China, Euromonitor says domestic manufacturers are dominant – especially in smartphones. As well as their price advantage and wide distribution, “local players also put strong effort into attracting consumers’ attention”.


On the export front, China continues to be a robust performer. In June 2017, for example, exports from the world’s second largest economy posted a 11.3% increase from a year ago – ahead of expectations. New research from Atradius estimates that China accounts for more than 30% of global consumer electronics exports, while consumer electronics as a percentage of national exports account for nearly 25%. While PCs and tablet sales have slowed due to economic uncertainty, Atradius says this has been compensated by technological innovations such as cloud computing, big data, and the Internet of Things. The continuing expansion of those emerging technologies should drive market expansion in the medium-term, together with income growth, enterprise modernisation and government support for the IT industry. China is also positioning itself at the forefront of the smart home revolution. China’s shift towards intelligent, advanced manufacturing is something that should hold it in good stead. To underline this point, Futuresource says: “The hardware industry has a recent track record of introducing new technologies and commoditising what might otherwise be premium products early in their life cycle and the outlook for value growth would improve if this trend could be slowed.”

Looking ahead, Futuresource says “The forecast for global CE trade value is 1.4% CAGR to 2021, a slight increase on previous forecasts. And the annual value of TV Displays sales is expected to increase by e13.4bn from 2015- 2021, driven by the consumption of more expensive models and a shift to 4k.” This again will be welcome news to China’s CE exporters.