Hardware market gains growth in a virus-hit March

Surge in home working in response to lockdowns has caused big spikes in demand for certain hardware products

Statistics proving that the last month has been a real boom for those in the hardware market continue to come out as more analysis is done on sales gained in March.

During the last few weeks, most Western countries have started to put people into lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus. With more workers being asked to stay at home, the tools to support that working environment have been in high demand.

Context has already reported on the surge in demand for many hardware products from the channel and it has now given details of a 38% year-on-year increase in PC sales sold through Western distributors for the first three weeks of March.

Notebooks took most of the sales, with commercial products up by 56%, while desktops climbed by 16% year on year.

Notebook sale increases tended to follow the timing of countries entering lockdown, with Italy leading the way. Distributors there noted a 110% increase, but the numbers were also up across Europe, including 50% in the UK.

If the surge in demand continues at this pace, there are some concerns that it could put increased pressure on supply chains across Europe as stocks dwindle.

“The present exceptionally strong growth rates are related to the sudden need to migrate employees to home-working and are expected to be temporary,” said Marie-Christine Pygott, senior analyst at Context.

“Nevertheless, in many organisations, the current crisis is likely to have raised awareness of the economic necessity of providing sound digital solutions, and this is expected to result in increased investment in this area over the longer term.”

Similar growth in demand has been seen on the other side of the Atlantic, with NPD reporting that monitor sales alone doubled in the first two weeks of March, with 80,000 units sold at retail.

Mouse and keyboard sales grew by 10%, and notebook PCs also saw a 10% increase in the first two weeks of March, and some products that had been gathering dust in warehouses, such as webcams, found they were wanted again.

Market watchers keep a close eye on what is happening in the channel and found that distributors and resellers were a week ahead of the retail curve in getting customers ready for home-working.

“Sales of these core productivity tools started spiking in our B2B data at least one week before consumers began rushing to the store as proactive IT departments of our companies and education systems began to prepare,” said Steve Baker, vice-president, industry adviser, technology & mobile at NPD.

Baker agreed with Pygott about the workplace being changed more permanently by the current situation.

“Over the last few weeks, the stay home movement has been a boon to many technology categories, and while this will likely begin to level off, the rush to equip our homes for distance connections, either for work or education, means that in the future, consumers as well as businesses are likely to give a lot more thought, and allocate a lot more in funds, to the maintenance of a high-quality tech setup at home alongside wherever else they may need it,” he said.

Vendors including Dell, HP, Microsoft and Intel are expected to benefit from the current high levels of demand for hardware and collaboration tools, according to market watchers.

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