Smart gadgets soar as UK embraces the connected home

More UK households now have a home assistant than a pet rabbit, according to Argos.

The retailer claims that 10% of UK households now own a home assistant – more than the number of households with a pet rabbit (2%) or hamster (1%) – with sales of smart home products soaring by 161% over the past year.

The finding is revealed in Argos’ first ever ‘Year in Tech’ report, which analyses how the nation has shopped for technology over the past 12 months, based on a year’s worth of sales data.

The study shows that Generation X (45-54 year olds) bought the most tech (23%), closely followed by baby boomers (over 55s) and midults (35-44 year olds) at 22%. Millennials spent the least on tech: 14% for 18–24 year-olds and 19% for 25-34 year olds.

The survey also reveals that women buy the most tech overall at Argos (53% versus 47% of men) except when it comes to smart home tech (41% women versus 59% of men) and drones (45% women versus 55% of men).

The biggest rise in smart home gadget sales was in smart speakers (up 151% year-on-year). From setting alarms, managing calendars and streaming music to listening to cooking instructions or controlling the lights, more Brits are embracing the convenience offered by voice technology at home, which allows them to operate hands-free, often while performing another task. On Black Friday 2017 alone, Argos sold 11 smart speakers a minute.

Sales of smart home monitoring and security products have also soared, by 200% year-on-year. Argos said October was the month with the biggest uplift in sales of smart home security tech (30% year-on-year) with families preparing for winter as the clocks go back and the nights draw in.

Smart lighting systems sales jumped by 77% and smart heating products were up 60%, as customers embrace the ability to control their lights and heating systems remotely.

In contrast, sales of radios dropped by 18% year-on-year – a decline which Argos attributes to more people listening to the radio on their smart speakers.

Argos head of buying for smart technology Chirag Shah said: “It’s wonderful to see our customers embrace smart tech in their homes to make them safer and more efficient. Customers are increasingly looking to these gadgets to help them with everything, from securing the house to following a recipe in the kitchen. The growing sophistication of voice technology in particular is really exciting and home assistants are clearly becoming part of the family in households nationwide.

“We predict smart tech will become more and more prevalent over the coming year, giving us more control over how we manage our home lives, so we have more time to focus on the things we enjoy the most.”

Meanwhile, sales of jumbo TVs (with screens of 65in or more) have leapt by 318% over the past year. Argos attributes the trend to the ‘Netflix effect’. It says: ‘The increase in 4K content available from Netflix is driving demand for bigger TVs as customers super-size their screens to binge on blockbuster box sets and watch the latest Hollywood movies in 4K high definition, home cinema quality.

Argos’ best-selling size range for TVs has changed from 44in-50in to 51in-59in, as customers seek bigger screens with better picture quality. The retailer also sells around 1.5 times more 4K TVs than HD models (by value), with 4K TV sales up 43 per cent year-on-year.

During the height of World Cup fever in June, sales of jumbo TVs soared by over 400% month-on-month compared with the same time last year, as customers sought a more immersive viewing experience to allow them to feel closer to the sporting action.

About 80% of all TVs sold at Argos (by value) are now ‘smart’ models, which allow customers to stream their favourite shows, use catch-up services, watch the latest films and browse the web.

As smart TV sales have grown, sales of 3D TV sales have dropped – which Argos attributes to customers finding the experience gimmicky and not wanting to wear 3D glasses.

Customers are also increasingly into soundbars, with around one in 10 purchasing a model with their new TV, seeking sound quality that matches the high-quality viewing experience offered by their TV.

Argos TV buying manager Serena Faruque said: “Bigger really is better for our customers when it comes to TVs, with more investing in jumbo screens than ever. The ‘Netflix effect’ is driving this as more and more of us want to stream the latest blockbuster box sets and enjoy them on the big screen in the comfort of our own home.

“More customers are also investing in soundbars which perfectly complement their entertainment experience. With TVs getting increasingly flatter and thinner, more customers are looking to soundbars to provide powerful audio, to match the incredible picture delivered by 4K screens.

“We predict that OLED technology, which offers the ultimate viewing experience, is going to see huge growth in the future as it becomes more cost-effective and accessible for telly addicts nationwide.”

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