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Dec 20, 2019
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Wearable tech demand surged this year says Mintel, Gen Z is key

Published
Dec 20, 2019

Smartwatches and wrist-worn fitness trackers continue to build their popularity in the UK after a fairly slow start a few years ago with ownership having increased 23% this year. And earbuds are also proving popular with 22% of Britons planning to buy smart earbuds over the next 12 months.


Via Tory Burch



That’s according to a new Mintel report that also said the percentage of smartwatch owners who use their devices to access social media has almost doubled from 17% in 2018 to 30% this year.

Mintel estimated the overall market for wrist-worn wearables to be valued at £5.13 million in 2019, with £2.21 million of that accounted for by fitness tracker/sports watch sales, a 10% year-on-year rise. But the major growth has been in smartwatches, soaring by 35% over the past year to reach £2.92 million.

Those figures in pounds sterling may not be huge, but they are significant and the researchers said that 19% of Britons own a fitness band/sports watch, while 13% own a smartwatch. And in the next 12 months, 26% plan to buy a fitness band (compared to a smaller 19% who said so in 2018), while 24% plan to purchase a smartwatch (up from 18% a year ago).

Their primary uses for smartwatches are tracking exercise (44%) and listening to music (38%), but as we said at the start of this piece, the numbers using them for social media have surged. And importantly, there has also been a significant increase in the number of owners using smartwatches as voice assistants — up to 22% from just 13% only 12 months ago.

Is there anything that could slow the rise of smartwatches? Well, we have to assume technical issues such as short battery life might deter some people and we know that not everyone’s bowled over by their aesthetics. But Mintel specifically called out the fact that 66% of consumers believe they’re too expensive.

Mintel also said earbud take-up is soaring. Currently, 10% of Britons own a product such as Apple’s AirPods or Samsung Galaxy Buds, up from 5% in 2018. But Gen Z and younger Millennials, that’s those in their teens and 20s, “who are proving to be their greatest fans, with as many as 21% of them owning smart earbuds,” we’re told. 

And with 22% of all Britons planning to buy them over the coming year, it shows how popular they’re becoming as that figure was just 12% a year ago. Intent to buy is even higher among Gen Zs, with 47% planning to buy smart earbuds over the next year.

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