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Camera sales stuck in doldrums.

NEW YORK -- The recession is taking its toll on digital camera sales, according to the Photo Marketing Association (PMA).

The faltering economy hurt sales this past November and December, when holiday gift giving would normally provide a boost. PMA Marketing Research notes that 30% to 40% of digital camera sales typically occur in the last quarter of any fiscal year.

Digital camera unit sales were down 7.2% in December 2008 from those the preceding year and dollar sales were down 15.5%, according to the PMA. November 2008 was even worse, with unit sales down 16% and dollar sales down 21% compared to the previous year.

Digital camera sales for the entire year were down 2% in unit terms but 16% in dollar terms, reflecting competitive pricing as well as a softening market. Dollar sales of digital cameras rose slightly in 2007.

The NPD Group, which puts together the camera sales reports for the PMA, points out that nearly all the digital cameras sold in November 2008 had resolutions of at least 6 megapixels, and that the resolution of entry-level cameras is moving to above the 10-megapixel mark.

Overall demand for still cameras--both film and digital--was down 16.4% in unit terms for November 2008, according to NPD. Not surprisingly, the biggest declines came in the shrinking market for film-based cameras. Unit sales of 35 mm cameras fell 76% in November 2008, and unit sales of onetime-use cameras fell 45% in the same period.

Data from Information Resources Inc. (IRI) also shows that single-use cameras--which years ago were able to buck the downward sales trend affecting other film cameras--are losing ground with consumers.

Sales of such cameras in supermarkets, drug stores and discount stores (excluding those operated by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.) were $37.9 million for the 12 weeks ended January 25, 2009, notes IRI. That is down 29.3% from the comparable period in the year before.

Industry observers note that sales of onetime-use cameras continued to rise in the early days of the digital camera era because they offered an inexpensive and convenient way to take pictures in situations where people did not want to carry a heavier camera or put a more expensive camera at risk. But the ubiquity of camera phones has led to the erosion of those advantages.

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Date:Mar 9, 2009
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