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Home working product demand increasing strain on channel stocks

The rush of customers to equip staff for a world of home working has led to huge spikes in demand of certain products over the past few weeks

As more detailed figures continue to come out of the past few weeks of trading, it has become clear that some product categories that support home working have experienced previously unseen levels of demand.

Those sales levels might help with the finances, but they are putting an increasing strain on channel inventory levels.

Context, which gets its numbers directly from distributors across Western Europe, has set up a Covid-19 weekly report tracking the performance of some key product lines.

The latest figures, for the four weeks ending 22 March, showed that webcams saw a year-on-year increase in revenues of 127%, with headsets and microphones up by 76%.

Notebooks have also continued to sell well, with the performance in the first three weeks of March producing year-on-year growth of 56% for commercial products.

There was a correlation between countries that had gone into lockdown for the longest length of time and higher sales, with Italy up by 137% and Spain by 143%.

Spending was not just confined to hardware and some software categories also saw impressive growth: database management (60%), virtualisation (55%), developer tools (47%) and security software (40%).

Stock levels

There are signs that some of that demand is starting to cause strains in distributor stock levels.

“We’ve heard from many distributors that it is critically low in quite a few of the top markets. They’ve told us that their customers are buying everything they can, including ageing stock,” said Adam Simon, Context’s global managing Director.

“Low stock is also being driven by disruption in supply resulting from earlier manufacturing issues in China and logistics problems. There’s limited container space for products shipping from China and increased border controls in Europe have contributed to lengthening product journeys,” he added.

Context has found that overall, week 12 figures show sales revenue growth in Europe 8% higher than it was the same time last year, coming in at 10% compared to just 2% in 2019.

The experience of Italy has shown though that the demand peaks and then drops away in just a matter of weeks and Context is expecting that to happen in other Western countries that went into lockdown later.

Alex Tatham, managing director of Westcoast, said that as a business it had started remote working, encouraging staff to stay at home during the lockdown.

“Westcoast’s initial experience of home working was part of our Business Continuity Plan, where the first action we took was to ensure everyone was working off a VDI solution both in and out of the office,” he said.

Surge in demand

From a sales point of view, the distributor, like many others in the channel, has seen a surge in demand for remote working products.

“The virus has lead to an explosion of demand and sales for home working products for businesses and individuals – client devices, accessories, phones, printers, and ink and networking devices are up over 50% year-on-year in March, despite supply issues from China,” said Tatham.   

“The other interesting fact is that Cloud licenses that include Teams have also increased significantly in March – indicating that Teams has been a strong medium for partners and their users,” he sdai. 

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