CTA: 2021 Holiday Tech Spending to Hit $142.5 Billion

(Image credit: Apple)

ARLINGTON, Va.—A new study from the Consumer Technology Association is projecting that tech sales in the 2021 holiday season (October-December) will hit $142.5 billion, a very slight 0.5% increase from 2020.

An all-time high of 191.3 million U.S. adults plan to purchase technology as a gift this holiday season. On average, respondents indicate they plan to spend an estimated $541 on technology gifts. Like years past, the most popular recipient of technology products this holiday season is consumers themselves (41%), followed closely by one’s spouse (37%).

The 28th Annual Consumer Technology Holiday Purchase Patterns report, which could have important implications for the health of the TV ad market in the fourth quarter, found that 83% of U.S. adults are unaffected by or more likely to purchase tech due to the pandemic. In addition, 44% said their tech purchasing would not be affected by the pandemic, up 4 percentage points from 2020. 

Those results indicate consumers remain enthusiastic about tech a year after the pandemic provided many consumers with more time to try out new products and services, the CTA said.

Smartphones have once again topped consumers’ list for tech gifts they most want to receive this year. Wearable devices jumped from fifth most popular in 2020 to third this season, largely driven by increased interest in real-time health monitoring technology. Overall, the top five tech products U.S. adults would like to receive as gifts were:

  • Smartphones
  • Laptop/Notebook Computers
  • Wearable Devices
  • Televisions 
  • Tied: Video Game Consoles and Tablets/E-Readers

“The surge in consumer spending on tech is being fueled by the ongoing value people find in these products and services, even amid a pandemic,” said Lesley Rohrbaugh, director of market research for CTA. “The pandemic gave people more time and incentive to discover the many ways technology can improve their lives – from more entertainment options, connection to friends and family, remote working tools and so much more. A notable change from recent years is retailers continuing to pull forward and capture sales earlier in the holiday season – particularly in the wake of recent and ongoing supply chain challenges many consumers are actively watching.”

With smartphone replacement rates reaching four-plus years (reported in CTA’s Mobile and Wireless 5-Year Forecast report), smartphone interest during this holiday season is expected to be strong, with 48% of holiday tech shoppers expecting to purchase one as a gift (up from 41% in 2019). 5G phones are at the top of the smartphone buying list, with 62% of overall holiday smartphone buyers expecting to purchase one with 5G capabilities and 29% planning to buy a foldable phone. 

Interest in home video game consoles is up to 45% this holiday season from 33% in 2019. Additionally, 71% indicate they plan to purchase at least one content-related product this season, such as a gaming, video, fitness, or audio streaming services.

“Accessorizing” or expanding in-home workspaces and computing capabilities will persist into this holiday season, showcased by interest in such products as printers (29% planing purchases), desktop computers (27%) and computer monitors (25%). 

The report presents the findings of an online survey conducted by Engine, a collaborative research partner, among a total sample of 2008 U.S. adults between September 9 and 13, 2021. The margin of sampling error at 95% confidence for aggregate results is +/- 2.2%.

CES 2022 will feature a research trends preview presented by CTA’s research team on Monday, January third prior to CES in Las Vegas. 

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.