PORT WASHINGTON: Annual US consumer technology sales have fallen by around $4bn since 2010, reaching $143bn in 2012, a trend posing major challenges to brand owners in the sector.

According to latest data from the NPD Group, a market research firm, US sales of consumer electronics were down 2% in 2012, on top of a near 1% decline in 2011.

But the company detected a glimmer of light as sales picked up in the final three months of last year.

"After struggles with declining categories, and increasingly saturated markets over the last few years, the fourth quarter's results may be the first sign that even as a mature industry consumer technology can grow again, albeit with a very different dynamic than in previous growth spurts," said Stephen Baker, VP for industry analysis at NPD.

The top five categories – notebooks, flat-panel TVs, smartphones, tablets and desktop computers – accounted for 53% of sales in 2012, up from 49% in 2011, the report said.

But the fortunes of these five categories varied widely. Only tablets and smartphones posted annual growth, of 42% and 25% respectively, and these two accounted for all the increase in revenue share among the top categories.

By contrast, desktop revenues were down 11%, those of notebooks down 9% while flat-panel TVs fell 7%. Desktops' decline was accelerated as a result of tablet sales increasing, while TV sales faced stagnant demand and declining prices.

Baker said that "the stellar growth of the past few years has made growth today more difficult."

"Most market segments have high penetration rates and the demand for additional devices is slowing, or declining," he added. "Tablets and smartphones have been able to stimulate demand for additional devices, but unfortunately it hasn't been enough, yet, to sustain positive growth trends."

NPD ranked Best Buy, Walmart, Apple, Amazon, and Staples as the top five retailers, while Apple, Samsung, HP, Sony and Dell were the top five brands.

Data sourced from NPG Group; additional content by Warc staff