October 16, 2006 2:15 PM PDT

MP3 players top holiday wish lists, CEA survey finds

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SAN FRANCISCO--MP3 players will be the holiday gift of choice for the second consecutive year, the Consumer Electronics Association predicted Monday at its annual industry confab.

A portable music player is the consumer electronics item topping most adults' and teens' wish lists this year, according to CEA's annual holiday spending survey.

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Video: CEA predicts holiday spending to rise
CEA's head of industry analysis tells Industry Forum attendees that there will be more spent this year than ever before.

In its 13th annual poll of 1,000 U.S. adults, CEA reported it expects a 14 percent growth in money spent on presents this holiday season. Consumer electronics gifts will account for almost a quarter of those purchases, to the tune of $21.7 billion, compared with $17 billion for the same period last year. However, gift spending should only account for half of the money laid out for consumer electronics from September to December in 2006, indicating that consumers aren't shy about buying gadgets for themselves.

After MP3 players, adults reported that they had their eye on, in descending order: a DVD player/recorder, digital camera, laptop or PC, TV, video game system, mobile phone, camcorder and high-definition TV.

But the No. 1 gift adults said they would give is a digital camera.

"That's one of the stars of the show this holiday season," Sean Wargo, CEA's director of industry analysis, told Industry Forum conference goers at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

About 37 percent of adults said they planned to give a digital camera as a present this season, compared with 28 percent who said so in 2005. Also, 53 percent of teens said buying a digital camera is on their shopping agenda.

After cameras, those surveyed said they would buy: a mobile phone, MP3 player, video game system or portable CD player. Sales of the latter, Wargo said, are slowing, but there remains "a healthy interest in the population" of consumers who like to rip and burn music files to CDs.

One of the biggest contributors to a healthy consumer electronics market is wireless phone sales, he said. CEA's research indicated that handsets would be the second most popular gift this year, as phones have become more multifunctional with games, built-in cameras, navigation ability, and the ability to surf the Web and play music files. He said to expect a 26 percent growth in the wireless phone market in the fourth quarter of this year, which would bode well for the whole industry.

"When wireless phones move, the industry moves."

Overall, CEA expects strong sales this holiday shopping season.

"We have a healthy consumer that's strong financially, and that's leading to growing demand for the current state of innovation we have in the marketplace," Wargo said. "If there's one thing our consumers depend dramatically on (us for), it's the pace of innovation."

CEA produces the annual Consumer Electronics Show, held in January in Las Vegas.

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