Pricey Macs Take a Sales Hit in February

U.S. retail sales of Apple Mac computers fell 16 percent in February on a unit basis, even as low-cost netbooks helped Windows-based PCs sales rise 22 percent, research group NPD said on Monday.

Unit sales of Macbook laptops dropped 7 percent, while Windows laptops jumped 36 percent. Without netbooks, Windows laptops rose 16 percent, NPD said.

NPD figures are a closely watched measure for Apple sales, but they do not include data on direct sales from PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc. The figures include sales from Apple stores, retailers such as Best Buy and e-commerce sites such as Amazon.com. Data from Wal-Mart is not included.

NPD analyst Steve Baker said Apple’s high-priced products are proving to be a tougher sell as U.S. consumers struggle through a crippling recession.

“I think the issue for them remains pricing in this kind of an environment,” he said.

However, Baker noted that “demand is difficult everywhere … even though Apple unit volumes may be challenged right now, at the end of the day, they’re a lot more likely to be profitable than other manufacturers.”

Prices also came down in February. The average selling price on Mac laptops dropped around 7 percent to $1,512, NPD said. On the Windows side, netbooks’ popularity was evident as the ASP on laptops tumbled 22 percent to $560.

Mac desktop units fell 36 percent in February, while Windows-based desktops dropped 10 percent.

Apple refreshed its line of desktops two weeks ago, and analysts expect sales to pick up in March.

Apple does not give mid-quarter updates on sales.

Shares of Cupertino, California-based Apple closed the regular session down 51 cents at $95.42.

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