Apple's iPad launch helps April retail electronics sales grow 9.7%

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Though overall retail sales in April were a mixed bag, consumer purchases of electronics grew 9.7 percent year-over-year, thanks in large part to the successful debut of Apple's iPad.

Released this week, the numbers from MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse show that electronics, along with luxury goods and appliances, saw an increase in overall retail sales in April when compared to the same span in 2009, according to The Associated Press.

The report specifically cited the launch of Apple's iPad as one of the primary reasons for growth in retail electronics sales. The iPad had two separate launches in the month: one for the Wi-Fi only version on April 3, and another for the 3G-capable model last week, on April 30.

The SpendingPulse figures apply from April 4 through May 1, and the results are compared with totals from a year earlier. The MasterCard figures include include transactions in all forms, including cash.

The 9.7 percent increase in retail electronics in April, bolstered in part by Apple's product launch, is up from a 4.5 percent year-over-year rise in March, and a 6.9 percent decline in April 2009.

In addition to the iPad, April also saw the introduction of new MacBook Pros from Apple, featuring Intel Core i7 and Core i5 processors and graphics switching technology on the high-end 17-inch and 15-inch notebooks. Early reports indicated strong initial sales of the new professional line of notebooks, which also included an upgraded 13-inch model. The MacBook Pro upgrade was not, however, cited in the report.

The new MasterCard figures also showed a 15.6 percent increase in online sales for April, while luxury goods, excluding jewelry, rose 15.5 percent year-over-year, and appliances increased by 3 percent. The growth was largely offset by slower sales of clothes, down 3.9 percent from April 2009, and footwear, off 1.7 percent. Analysts who spoke with The Associated Press characterized April's overall retail sales as simply "OK."

Last week Apple revealed that it sold more than a million iPads in the device's first 28 days of availability in the month of April. That was less than half of the 74 days it took the Cupertino, Calif., company to achieve the milestone with the first iPhone in 2007.

Though specific figures for the late-April iPad 3G launch were not released, Apple did announce after the Wi-Fi-only model debuted that it sold more than 300,000 units in its first 24 hours alone. By the end of its first week, the iPad had topped a half-million in sales. The device remains only available to customers in the U.S., while an international launch is planned for the end of May, with overseas preorders set to begin on Monday, May 10.