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Consumer electronics spending hits $144B in 2011

People shop more online, are buying tablets and e-readers, and continue to purchase Apple products at an increasing rate, says market researchers.

Recent news of Apple killing it with fourth-quarter earnings and holiday spending showing more people shopping online was re-confirmed today by market research company The NPD Group.

Their numbers show that these fourth-quarter trends actually held true for all of 2011.

According data crunched by NPD, U.S. consumer electronics sales reached $144 billion in 2011, with Apple topping as the No. 1 brand. Additionally, in-store sales fell by 2.5 percent in 2011, while online sales jumped by 7 percent.

The top five categories for electronic spending were PCs, TVs, tablets and e-readers, mobile phones, and video game hardware, which accounted for nearly 60 percent of all sales in 2011, according to NPD.

PCs (notebooks and desktops) generated the most revenue with almost $28 billion, or about 20 percent of sales. However, these numbers are actually down from 2010 by 3 percent. This may be accounted for by the growth of tablets and e-reader spending, which nearly doubled in sales to $15 billion in 2011.

"U.S. hardware sales growth is becoming harder and harder to achieve at the broad industry level," NPD's Stephen Baker said in a statement. "Sales outside of the top five categories fell by 8 percent in 2011 as consumers shifted spending from older technologies to a narrow range of products."

For the second year in a row, Apple led the charge as the leading consumer electronics brand. In fact, among the top five brands it was the only one to increase sales from 2010. Overall, Apple had a 36 percent rise from 2010 and in the fourth quarter it made up 19 percent of all sales dollars--almost twice as much as number two Hewlett-Packard.

At the retail level, it was a repeat of 2010. Best Buy sold the most, followed by Wal-Mart and Apple, with Staples and Amazon tied for fourth place. Online, direct mail, and TV shopping sales accounted for 24 percent of all sales, which is up from 22 percent in 2010.

Although people purchased electronics at a fairly steady rate throughout 2011 and increases were seen in various divisions, overall electronic spending in the U.S. fell 0.5 percent from 2010, according to NPD.