Big-screen TVs, routers, other practical tech likely to be best sellers this holiday shopping season

We’re just a few weeks from Black Friday and intense holiday shopping time during an era of COVID-19, and it’s a good bet a lot of people will be looking for something practical.

Stephen Baker, an analyst with the NPD Group, which tracks sales of consumer products, says to expect a holiday filled with non-sexy products like computer monitors, external mice and keyboards and, yes, routers.

“You’re not going to give a spa certificate or holiday tickets to Bermuda,” Baker says. ”Instead, we’re seeing more tangible gifts, like a router. Give your family the gift of better Internet connectivity.”

The pandemic has put a twist on consumer electronic sales. Already, there have been huge sales gains for products that make it easier to work and learn from home, Baker says:

  • Router sales — up 50%.
  • Computer monitors — up 80%.
  • Big-screen TVs — up 35%.

Baker sees that trend continuing for the holiday shopping season, when the next-generation video consoles from Sony (PlayStation 5) and Microsoft (Xbox 5) are expected to be the hardest to get.

New iPhones, while not generally gifts, are expected to be the biggest sellers of the holiday along with Apple AirPods and other headsets, says Daniel Ives, an analyst with Wedbush Securities.

What else is hot?

  • TVs traditionally are the best sellers for the holiday, as consumers opt for the bargain prices. Baker says to expect many 65-inch sets for as low as $250 and even larger ones to be heavily discounted.
  • Computer monitors — Baker says this is the fastest growing category in consumer electronics. “Kids want a bigger screen when they’re doing education at home, parents are adding second or third screens to their home setup for work. Screens are clearly much more important than they’ve been before.” (Laptops have been a big seller all year long and hard to get, but don’t tend to be purchased for the holidays, Baker says.)
  • Streaming sticks — With virtually every TV these days a smart TV with built-in streaming, you could expect sales of the Roku and Amazon Fire TV streaming sticks to take a hit. Not so, according to Baker, who says they will continue to be among the most popular products. Sales already are up 40%. For the past several years, Amazon has listed the Fire TV streaming stick as one of its top sellers at holiday time. “There are millions and millions of older TVs,” Baker says. “And maybe you got a smart TV but don’t like the interface, so you replace it with a Roku.”

What’s not hot?

  • Smart speakers — Amazon traditionally massively discounts its Echo speaker line during the holidays, but so far this year Baker hasn’t seen a “huge jump” in sales for these products during COVID times. But he expects Apple’s HomePod Mini, its first consumer-priced smart speaker, at $99, to be a big seller. Apple has said that all of its best-selling products — iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches — have seen a boost from
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