AirPods' Sales Spike Barely Dents Market Share For Beats And Bose
Have Apple's AirPods taken a big bite out of Beats' share of the wireless headphone market? Actually, the latest NPD Group retail tracking data suggest it's more of a nibble.
Are Apple's AirPods already taking down the market share of Beats headphones, their corporate siblings? That was the implication of recent stories -- including this one on CNET -- that cited data from online shopping analyst Slice Intelligence.
The numbers showed that Apple had taken a 26 percent share of wireless headphone sales in December 2016 with its AirPods. The difference before and after the AirPods became available to buy online on December 13 was dramatic: Beats, which is owned by Apple, dropped from a 24.1 percent share to 15.4 percent while Bose went from a 10.5 percent share to 16.1 percent.
However, according to Ben Arnold, an executive director and industry analyst at NPD Group, those numbers paint an incomplete picture of the wireless headphone market and don't jibe with NPD's December numbers. Unlike Slice, which analyzes the email receipts of 4.2 million online shoppers, NPD's data reflects brick-and-mortar and online sales, including Amazon.
The AirPods got heaps of attention when Apple unveiled them in September alongside the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, even as it also showcased a trio of new Beats wireless headphones. They only hit the market after weeks of delay, but sales ignited right away, prompting Apple CEO Tim Cook in late December to describe the AirPods as a "runaway success."
Ultimately, the question is whether Apple's totally wireless earphones will cannibalize sales from its own brand (Beats) or claim it from other brands.
According to NPD's December 2016 Weekly Retail Tracking Service data, the AirPods had an impressive debut but not as impressive as Slice Intelligence suggests.
"Apple being able to capture 2 percent of the market in units and 3 percent in dollars with one product in its debut month is significant, given how big the headphone market is," Arnold said.
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