The consumer electronics market in China presented a mixed picture in the first quarter as vigorously growing segments were countered by increasingly frail markets, according to a China Research market tracker from information and analytics provider IHS.
Among the gainers during the period were set-top boxes (STB), white-goods appliances and liquid-crystal display televisions (LCD TV). Meanwhile, sectors that suffered declines included DVD and Blu-ray players; MP3 and portable media players; and digital still cameras.
The largest growth was posted by the cable set-top box market. Shipments reached 10.4 million units, up an outsized 63 percent from 6.4 million units during the first quarter a year ago in 2012. Domestic STB shipments rose 7 percent to 6.3 million units, but the real news was in the export sector where shipments ballooned to 4.1 million units from just 570,000 units. The astounding increase in China cable STB exports was thanks to vastly larger shipments going into India from Chinese firms Skyworth Digital Group and Sichuan Changhong Network Technologies.
Overall set-top box shipments including satellite and terrestrial STBs amounted to 35.3 million units, up 18 percent from 29.8 million.
Also a big growth segment was the China white-goods market for appliances like air conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines and microwave ovens. Overall white-goods shipments amounted to 70.9 million units, up 12 percent from 63.3 million units. Air-conditioner shipments into the domestic Chinese market were particularly strong, up 39 percent, and exports also grew for the most part except for washing machines, down a sharp 10 percent.
A third growth sector was the China LCD TV segment. Government subsidies due to end in May drove the domestic space as buyers rushed to take advantage of the program before it ended, and local brands dropped pricing for small- to medium-sized TVs to encourage even more uptake among consumers.
For those on the losing side, however, little comfort could be derived as shipments continued to plunge. The trailing sectors mirror the wrenching changes taking place in the global markets for dedicated devices such as digital still cameras and MP3 players, upended by multipurpose gadgets like smartphones that now incorporate camera and music-playing functions.
The biggest decline in the China electronics space during the first quarter was posted by the digital still camera market. Shipments here amounted to 11.9 million units, down a staggering 41 percent from 20.3 million units a year ago at the same time. MP3 and portable media players were also in a dismal spot with total shipments at 10.7 million units, down 22 percent from 14.7 million. The DVD and Blu-ray player segment escaped with just slightly better results, down 17 percent from 22.4 million units to 18.5 million.
For the markets in decline, export shipments were generally more favorable than their domestic counterparts. For instance, China's digital still camera exports amounted to 10.1 million units, but domestic shipments only reached a paltry 1.7 million units.
The equation between export and domestic shipments was more balanced among the gaining markets. Chinese exports of white-goods appliances, as an example, totaled 36.3 million units in the first quarter, while domestic shipments came in at just slightly less with 34.6 million.