20 PRODUCT TOPS AND “FLOPS” of 2012

Robin Renford
Robin Renford
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The ancient Mayans were not the only ones who miscalculated their doomsday, or Gangnam the only thing grooving to a winning beat this year. In the world of consumer spending, our pockets have collectively decided who would laugh all the way to the bank and who would eat crumbs and grumble the year away.  The world has not ended in 2012 and so we can look back and check a gamut of products that topped and flopped this year.

But first a disclaimer—the listed top and flopped items are indicative of consumer reception, or lack of it, and not an accounting of actual sales.  Most items here are low- and medium-ticket products that can be bought out of the pocket (except cars) and that they have been introduced this year. Many are clear winners and losers that have raked in big money or otherwise. There are “losers” that made some profits, but they clearly under-performed on their targets.  We can sum up the whole criteria as promise versus performance or anticipation by consumers, industry and media against the product’s actual market reception.

MOBILE GADGETS

The year was a battleground for smartphone supremacy and more tablet launchings vying for our cash. As expected, the focus is on Apple versus Samsung, the two giants dominating the category with cool features and cold-blooded lawsuits against each other.

What topped

Samsung Galaxy SIII

samsungThe year marked for the first time that the iPhone brand was outperformed by the competition. The Android-based Samsung Galaxy SIII sold a whopping 30 million units, gulping an 11% share of the smartphone market. It is the world’s no. 1 selling smartphone this year, according to the research firm Strategy Analytic; at least for a while. Apple’s iPhone 4S sold for 16 million units, but the launching of iPhone 5 late this year may snatch the best-selling crown back from Samsung early next year.

iPad 4 and iPad Mini

Apple may have lost some smartphone ground, but it still dominates the tablet category with the separate launching of its tag team: the iPad 4 and iPad Mini. Apple’s tablet dominance shows in what some experts’ believe as the cannibalizing of iPad 4’s market by the Mini for lack of competition.  The Cupertino-based company said that it sold three million iPad units on the first days of sales, but it is not telling which sold more between the iPad siblings, who like in true family fashion, are biting at each other while they wait out a respectable common enemy to emerge. The new generation of iPads features the laptop-class processor, the A6 chip, as tablets move toward chipping away the market of laptops.

What flopped

Sony’s Xperia T smartphone

Even Spider Man needs to call someone and he uses Xperia. X what? Exactly. Not even James Bond, who counts the smartphone among his cool gadgets in “SkyFall” could give Sony the market traction. Both Xperia T and Xperia X10 Mini Pro are falling fast to the ground and Spidey can’t catch them in the web as Sony struggles at number eight behind lightweights Huawei and TLC in the global ranking of smartphone makers.

Intel-based Ultrabooks

The main enemy is the tablet, and ultrabooks promised to put mobile computing dominance back to laptops. Only that it didn’t happen. Toshiba, Lenovo, and Dell teamed up with Intel to produce super thin laptops, hoping to cash in from the popularity of Apple’s Macbook Air. But market research firm HIS iSuppli expects that ultra slim laptops will only sell for less than half of the 22-million target this year, not the least, some experts say, because one ultrabook sets you back $1,000 or more.

Special mention: Nokia Lumia 920

nokia_lumiaThe Windows-based Nokia Lumia 920 gave the company a consistent substantial gain through the end quarter, but to many pundits, it’s not enough.  Considering that the Lumia line is Nokia’s flagship into the smartphone market, the ship may be running aground, if not sinking, soon for the once world’s number one mobile manufacturer. Some indicators of the Lumia’s losing grip: AT&T dropped its price to $50 to attract buyers; Nokia’s smartphone market share stands at 4.3% according to Gartner Research; and the target end-of-year delivery was dropped from 1 million units to just 500,000.

APPS

The Apple App Store still dominates the apps market, but Google Play is not sitting still. Android apps raked in about $3.5 million daily revenues for Play in 2012, but that’s gigabytes behind App Store’s $15 million cash cow. The silver lining for Google is its 43% growth between August and November, when App Store managed only a 21% rating, and not to forget Samsung Galaxy SIII is bringing a wave of Android apps-hungry users. Meantime, the apps universe belongs to Apple, the tops and flops included.

What topped

Rayman Jungle Run

Apple recently released its best-of-apps and topping the list are, as expected, game apps. And the best app for 2012… Rayman Jungle Run by Ubisoft. A neatly animated Rayman (you) must jump, float, climb and punch through a throng of obstacles across forty levels for reasons only clear to you.  It’s a great way to practice your timing and rhythm, and a great way for App Store to earn timely revenues for this year. Of course, Rayman also runs in Android but not as quite as fast to give Play much business.

WhatsAPP and Apple Pages

For the non-game category, WhatsAPP won the best-selling iPhone app and Apple Pages the best-selling iPad app this year. WhatsAPP is a cross-platform instant messaging that, according to The Next Web site, hit a record-smashing ten billion messages handled in a day last August.  Pages, on the other hand, combines processing power with page layout neatness to become the dominant word processor in mobile computing.

What flopped

Apple Maps

apple_mapsIt’s not a question of sales, but that it sullied a clinically neat brand like Apple demands that Apple Maps be awarded a flop ranking. Apple Maps was designed to slug it out with Google Maps, but the IOS map lost its way to the battle scene. When you confuse Greenland for the Indian Ocean, there’s no way but for the development team to sink to the bottom of the sea. Wrong street turns, clouded city sections, images in black and white, the list of complaints against Apple Maps went on, forcing CEO Tim Cook to apologize for the booboo and fire his senior vice president for IOS software.

Windows 8

It is supposed to be the Return of the King, Ceasar coming and conquering Britain, an industrial Japan re-emerging from war, but Windows 8 lacked the grand chutzpah as sales didn’t match expectations. A New York Times article pointed out that US sales for Windows devices, mainly PCs, dropped by 13% in the last quarter compared to last year. But some attribute the under-performing sales to little annoyances, such as hiding the “Start Menu” and shifting to the icon candy-look of mobile OS; thus, alienating what remains of the diminishing number of loyal PC users.

MOVIES

The heroes lorded it over the movie industry this year, while a spiritual adventure and a remake didn’t’ quite make the cut.

What topped

The Avengers, Dark Knight, Hunger Games

They came for vengeance and surely got it: a whopping $623,357,910 total domestic gross for The Avengers, a bunch of Marvel superheroes out to save the world and their egos. The film opened to a warm reception and good reviews, notably the director’s decision to teach the Hulk some funny manners. Coming in second is another hero that decided to do it solo: The Dark Knight Rises earned $448, 139,099 total domestic gross. The Hunger Games hit it at third place with $408,010,692 total domestic gross.

What flopped

Cloud Atlas, Judge Dredd and a musical sci-fi melodrama (or is it a sci-fi musical?)

cloud_atlasCloud Atlas is a notable flop because it carries a star-studded entourage: Tom Hanks and Halle Berry among a dozen stars with Andy Wachowski of the Matrix fame as one of the three directors. Despite itself it could only afford a little above $26,600,000 in gross ticket sales. Judge Dredd tried to follow the success of the 1995 original, but the outcome is a dreadful $28 million total domestic gross.  Still, both films had a lot to thank for when you consider The Ghastly Love of Johnny X, which earmarked a total sale of $117. The film, a bagful of musical sci-fi melodrama, appears not serious, and so was its ticket gross.

BOOKS

What topped

Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James

Book three of this trilogy by E.L. James turned up to be a winner this year, but there are some shades that needed clearing up. The first two books were released last year and it buoyed up sales for the third release this year, selling more than 35 million copies in the US for the whole trilogy collection. Franchise holder Random House was even reported to have given $5,000-bonuses to its employees off its more than $200 million earnings from the trilogy alone; this at a time when the publishing industry is staring at the beginning of the industry’s demise.

What flopped, but not really

Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

JK Rowling's The Casual VacancyThe book is J.K. Rowling’s attempt to escape Hogwarts. Casual Vacancy performed well, cornering the 15th spot in the best-selling books of 2012 by The Telegraph. Still, it didn’t reflect Rowling’s book dominance of the past decade. But no one is complaining; the book has sold 375,000 copies as of October, making her novel among the fastest selling releases this year, but nowhere near her last Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which sold over two millions copies in the first week alone. We may not see J.K. Rowling in the league of contemporary adult authors soon after Casual; hence, the flop label.

AUTOMOBILES

The US automobile industry had it good this year with these notable figures compiled by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders: car sales is up by 2.6% (January to May period); diesel models outraced gas-fueled vehicles with 443,000-plus units sold compared to 412,000-plus for the latter; and lastly, alternative fuel vehicles got a 31.8% increase versus last year with 12,145 sales for the same period. And to top it all, the most sold vehicle in 2012 is a good old American car brand.

What topped

Ford F-Series P/U

It is the top-selling vehicle in the US according to a Reuters report, selling around 463,000 or an 11.4% increase through September as compared last year.  With a price tag starting at $23,000, the F-Series is a tough, fuel-efficient vehicle that is either a sleek-looking SUV or a dependable workhorse. The F-Series’ robust sales, in fact, reflect the newfound acceleration generated by the Big Three, all of which reported a double-digit growth, according the website CarConnection.

What flopped

Toyota RAV4

rav4Since its launched in 1994, this SUV-Sedan cross-over has undergone a series of facelifts through the years. The RAV4 2012 is its latest evolution featuring a powerful V6 engine, a cargo space and that third row for your kid. Still, Toyota managed only to sell 134,000-plus units this year, in a report by Reuters.

BLACK FRIDAY SALE

It’s the season for shopping while elbowing. This year’s Black Friday has given us quite a number of viral videos showing the seemingly robust sales matched by the shoppers’ robust jockeying for the best deals.

What topped

Electronics, video games, TVs and toys

Westinghouse LCD flat screen TVs sold out in Target stores. BradDeals.com reported that the $688 Vizio 60” HDTV as the most popular item. Wii U also made a killing. But some store employees reported that Furby and Barbie, and board games (surprise!) and $100 iTunes eCards were also favorites during the mad rush to get the year’s best deals.

What flopped 

Big chain stores

There seemed less elbows to fend off this year. Big retail chains Macy’s, Nordstrom, Kohl’s and Target reported a decline in November sales—including Thanksgiving and Black Friday—across their branches nationwide compared to last year. Khol’s got it bad at 5.6% decline, while Nordstrom fell by 1.1% and Target by 1%. Macy’s is mourning a 0.7% less sales for the same period.

CONCERT TOURS

The Grammy may belong to newbies, but the tours belong to the veterans.

What topped

Madonna

Madonna sashayed to a total gross of $228.4 million in her 2012 world tour. That’s about 1,635,176 fans pulled in by the material girl in 72 sold-out concerts this year. Not to be outdone, or totally outdone, is fellow eighties icon, Bruce Springsteen who earned a total gross of $199.4 million this year. Just when you think they’re relaxing in some retirement house, Springsteen and his band pulled in a total of 2,165,925 fans this year.

What flopped 

Iglesias and JLo

jloEnrique Iglesias and J Lo were no shows at their Orlando concert simply because it didn’t happen.  The concert was cancelled “due to logistical issues” or in native parlance, lack of enough ticket sales. Beyonce’s Atlantic City concert was more straightforward. The logistics were there, so were many empty seats.

SPORTS

We’ll talk football and baseball and all the sports in between for this year’s sports tops and flops.

What topped

London Olympics, Super Bowl

If there’s a clear winner in the 2012 London Olympics it’s American viewership. More than 219.4 million watched the Games in the US, a record high in history, according to Nielsen ratings. That’s a significant increase from the Beijing Olympics, which was watched by 215 million Americans. In the local front, the Super Bowl game between the Giants and Patriots on February 5 generated 111.35 million viewers.

What flopped

World Series

While Americans were agog about football, they gave their baseball the cold shoulder this year. The World Series sweep by the Giants of the Tigers generated only 12.7 million viewers, a record low, ever. Much of the low rating is blamed on the fact that both teams don’t have the national following of the Yankees or the Red Sox.

FASHION

This year has no defining fashion statement, as has been for the past many years. Rather, the classic labels are just being what they are, classic and classy, that they are the epitome of fashion aspirations.

What topped

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton was voted the world’s most valuable luxury brand in 2012 by the market research firm Milward Brown for seven years now. More tellingly, Google Zeitgeist, literally translates to “spirit of our times,” showed that Louis Vuitton as the most searched high fashion brand this year.

What flopped

Dior

diorIf Google search is the benchmark, we can safely say Dior flopped big time. It didn’t make it to the top 10 list of fashion searches, or did users simply go straight to its website? Critics couldn’t believe that Jennifer Lawrence of the top-grosser flick, The Hunger Games, who was signed in this year to front for the brand, wouldn’t pull much interest for Dior.

WHAT DID WE MISS?

What brands, movies, concerts, events that  didn’t make it to our tops and flops and why we should have included them? Feel free to comment.

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Robin Renford

Robin talks about a wide range of financial topics, from macro-economics to personal finance, and investment portfolios to proprietorship. He focuses on providing financial advice to his readers as part of the FinancesOnline team. He is also working on a book about wealth management for the average American, using his more than a decade of experience and exposure to the business sector as inspiration.

Category: Financial News


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