A sudden downturn in consumer gadget mania

The latest consumer spending survey from ChangeWave Research shows “a sudden, huge pullback in U.S. consumer retail spending on electronics — the largest decline since 2002.” The survey of 4,427 consumers, conducted February 18-25, looked at discretionary spending on a range of popular electronic devices, including video game consoles, digital cameras and iPods.

In an unprecedented sign of weakness, only 19% of survey respondents say they’ll spend more on electronics over the next 90 days, compared to 33% who will spend less.

“These results clearly show that the consumer electronics sector is getting whacked,” said Tobin Smith, founder of ChangeWave Research and editor of ChangeWave Investing.

Hardest-hit stores: Best Buy and Circuit City. (But Costco and Wal-Mart will be OK.)

Hardest-hit products: LCD TVs, digital cameras, cell phones and iPods.

Bright spots: The Nintendo Wii, Blu-ray HD DVD players and GPS devices.

And there was little evidence that consumers will be spending their “economic stimulus” tax rebate checks on consumer electronics.

“Rather, our findings point to an increasingly preoccupied American consumer who has fallen out of love with gadgets — at least temporarily,” Smith said. 

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