Strong sales expected for wearables

10 November 2014

NEW YORK: Awareness and ownership of wearable fitness products among US consumers has doubled in the last year, with the devices on track to achieve strong sales over the holiday period, a new study has forecast.

According to an online survey of 5,800 US consumers conducted by research firm NPD, awareness of wearable fitness products doubled from 30% last November to 70% at the end of July.

Sales of these devices over the same period also doubled to 10% while just over 25% used a fitness app on their smartphone at least once, the survey discovered. Almost a fifth (17%) said they had used a fitness app over the previous three months.

Other app-based fitness activities that respondents said they had used at least once included calorie-tracking (14%), nutrition-tracking (13%), jogging/walking distance tracking (12%), fitness GPS (6%), pedometer (4%), Body Mass Index calculator (3%), heart rate (2%) and sleep tracking (2%).

With awareness growing and more devices being launched by major players, such as Microsoft, Fitbit and Jawbone, NPD predicted a significant boost to sales over the coming weeks.

"Activity trackers are going to be a hot-selling item this holiday season," said Eddie Hold, vice-president of NPD's Connected Intelligence division.

"We expect to see a number of new devices to hit the market helping to drive higher demand for the category but also price drops on some of the older devices – creating even more appeal for the holiday season," he added.

These new devices include Microsoft's Band, a $200 hybrid smartwatch and fitness tracker, and the Onyx wearable communications device that was unveiled last week by San Francisco start-up OnBeep, the Financial Times reported.

Others pitching for the fitness tracker market include Jawbone's Up3 and the Apple Watch, although the latter device will not be available until the beginning of next year.

However, while NPD's findings offered encouragement to technology brands engaged in the growing market, it also cautioned that 40% of those who had bought tracking devices in the past no longer used them.

"This highlights a significant disconnect between what the consumer is hoping to achieve and what the initial products actually deliver. As such, the devices need to improve quickly," Hold warned.

Data sourced from NPD Group, Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff