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China finally supplants North America as the biggest consumer electronics market

Above: Steve Koenig of the CEA

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

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China is starting to drive the worldwide consumer electronics industry.

That trend has been visible for years, but 2013 was the year when consumer electronics sales in emerging countries in Asia exceeded sales in North America.

“North America is goingo have to settle for No. 2,” said Steve Koenig, senior analyst at the Consumer Electronics Association, the trade group that stages the 2014 International CES, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas this week.

The rapid growth in China is no surprise, given the population advantage it has. There are 160 cities in China with more than 1 million people, compared to just 9 in the U.S. China’s gross domestic product (GDP), expected to hit 7.4 percent in 2014, is also rising faster than North America’s.

The rapid pace of change, and how fast China has become a global force, is more of the surprise, Koenig said.

Despite China’s rise, the sales of the worldwide consumer electronics industry will drop 1 percent in 2014, Dubravac said. The reason is that prices for tech goods come down faster than demand has risen.

Global tech sales are expected to hit $1.055 trillion in 2014, compared to $1.068 trillion in 2013. While that is down, it is well above the weak year of 2009, when sales were $836 billion.

Global smartphone sales are expected to be 1.2 billion units in 2014. The average price of a smartphone has dropped from $444 in 2010 to $297 in 2013.

North American tech sales are expected to be $257 billion in 2013, once the counting is finished. China’s region is expected to hit $282 billion. Emerging markets are now 50 percent of global tech sales, compared to 40 percent not long ago, Koenig said.

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