Apple's Holiday MacBook Sales Down 6% in 2012, PCs down 11%

MacBook Holiday Sales Decline

Apple sold fewer MacBooks this holiday season than it did in 2011, but the average price of each sale increased by $100, according to consumer market research firm NPD’s Weekly Tracking Service, reported by AppleInsider Friday.

Measuring the five week holiday shopping season between November 18 and December 22, NPD measured a 6 percent decline in Apple MacBook sales compared to the previous year. As mentioned above, however, the average selling price increased nearly $100, to $1,419.

As discussed at AppleInsider, several factors may have combined to lower MacBook sales. The majority of the MacBook product line was nearly six months old by the time the holiday shopping season hit, with Apple updating the MacBook Airs, non-Retina MacBook Pros, and introducing the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro at WWDC in June. Only the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, released by Apple in late October, was still a relatively “new” product during the holidays.

Another factor was Apple’s continued push into tablets. For many consumers with basic computing requirements, an iPad can satisfy most needs. The updated fourth-generation iPad and the new 7.9-inch iPad mini, both released in late October, may therefore be viable alternatives to a MacBook for some individuals. While some consider the iPad line, with prices starting at $329 for the 16 GB mini, to be overpriced compared to its tablet competitors, even the most expensive iPad configuration is still hundreds of dollars less than most MacBooks (with the cheapest MacBook Air starting at $999).

Regardless of the reasons for the decline, Apple’s situation was far less severe than that of the Windows-based PC notebook market during the same period. Sales of Windows-based notebooks declined 11 percent compared to last year, according to NPD, with the launch of Windows 8 unable to stop the losses.

Of that overall Windows notebook market, the sub-$500 low-end segment was hit the hardest, with sales dropping 16 percent from 2011’s numbers. This market segment is a prime target for the iPad, with customers now able to purchase an iPad mini for well under $500 or an entry-level full-sized iPad at the top of their budget.

Apple’s 6 percent decrease in MacBook sales was also part of a broader 3.7 percent decline in consumer electronics spending during the 2012 holiday season. NPD’s Stephen Baker, Vice President of Industry Analysis, blamed the overall decline on a “weak product cycle” for the industry.

Apple’s official numbers for the first fiscal quarter will be reported Wednesday, January 23 at 5 PM EST. The Mac Observer will have live coverage of the call and analysis of the results.

Teaser graphic made with help from Shutterstock.