Market recovery drives channel optimism

Softcat CEO adds to the growing chorus across the channel who are feeling positive about the year ahead

The channel is increasingly looking ahead to 2022 with optimism with customer spending returning, stalled projects being switched back on and a currently busy fourth quarter.

Last week, Context revealed that its global channel survey had seen two-thirds of respondents expressing positivity about the market and earlier today Softcat added to the good vibe with a solid set of full-year numbers.

Graeme Watt, Softcat CEO, shared the firm’s results and spoke about the improving market conditions as customers continued to spend on infrastructure, security and hybrid working.

“There’s a recovery and I think we’ve all seen it in our personal and professional lives – things are returning a little bit,” he said. “We are seeing more people in offices, they’re going to the offices in greater numbers and that switches on some business, some of the on-premise datacentre projects.

“Some of the industries that we’re talking about: airline industries, the restaurant and bar trade and holiday companies – that’s all switching back on and they need to continue to spend on infrastructure, and we’re there to help them with those projects, so I think we would say there’s a recovery under way.”

Watt said he had spoken to partners across the UK and Europe and most were feeling good about the state of the market. “They’re feeling good about their business, they’re feeling good about the opportunity. There’s a ton of different areas that the resellers can find to add value, as the market keeps evolving. There’s more cloud-based offerings and services, more and more internet of things sensors and edge computing, it’s always evolving,” he said.

“I think distribution is feeling good about itself. I think the vendors, other than the sort of short to medium-term blip around supply chain constraint, are feeling pretty good about the space they’re in as well, so I’m feeling as positive as ever.”

At last month’s Canalys Channels Forum, the analyst house’s president and CEO, Steve Brazier, also spoke about decent prospects for the industry going forward.

“We are so fortunate to be in the technology industry in an economy that has had so many difficulties, whether the car industry, the hospitality industry, the movie industry, or whatever it may be,” said Brazier. “We are so lucky because every part of the tech industry, from devices, through the cloud, through to security, through to networking, has done so well during the pandemic.

“The best decision you made in your life was to be employed by the tech industry in whichever job you have. The best place to be over the next decade is almost certainly the tech industry as well.”

Watt also spoke about the importance of sustainability and the need for that to be a key plank of the channel’s approach going forward into next year and beyond.

“Investors want to know what a company’s sustainability criteria are,” he said. “Increasingly now, the public sector is awarding frameworks and projects within frameworks where you need to show your sustainability ambitions and initiatives. I think we’re going to start seeing that more and more in the corporate world. People will want to be dealing with come strong credentials.”

Watt said Softcat had made public declarations about its ambitions to use 100% renewable energy by 2024 and have a carbon net-zero supply chain by 2040.

“We’re doing an awful lot of initiatives to make that happen, our own initiatives working with suppliers on educating our channel on what products are environmentally friendly, can be recycled or themselves are made out of recycled material. Increasingly now we’re working with channel partners to help educate them in terms of what initiatives we should all be taking so that the supply chain can get there as quickly as possible. It's already very important and will only become more and more important.”

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