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Houston, we've got slightly less sucky gadget sales

The Texas city's is the only major U.S. retail market to see positive sales growth of consumer technology at end of 2008, NPD says. Midsize Midwest markets have the smallest declines.

Midwesterners and Texans are doing their best to prop up the U.S. retail consumer technology market, according to new sales data released Thursday.

Sony Bravia TV gadget sales
Sales of HDTVs are key to supporting the entire consumer electronics industry, according to The NPD Group. Sarah Tew/CNET

During the fourth quarter of 2008, Houston was the only market of the 45 largest in the United States to actually see an increase in gadget sales compared to a year earlier. Purchases of LCD TVs, notebooks, digital SLR cameras, cables, and camera accessories helped drive sales totals up 2.3 percent in the Houston area, according to NPD Group, which tallies store-level sales data.

Improved sales in Houston can be an example to retailers, said Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of analysis. It shows that large, reliable categories of gadgets--such as HDTVs, notebooks, and cameras--have to do well in order for the entire consumer electronics ecosystem to see an improvement in sales.

The other markets that saw the smallest declines in gadget sales are all midsize markets further north of Houston. Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Minneapolis saw the smallest declines in sales in the fourth quarter, between 4.9 percent and 7.1 percent, according to NPD.

Conversely, the worst drops in consumer tech sales during the fourth quarter were mostly on the coasts: Seattle; Tampa, Fla.; Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City; and West Palm Beach, Fla. saw declines of between 16.5 percent and 18.8 percent, the highest in the country.