It's official: the pandemic led to booming PC sales, but shortages took the shine off
A record number of PCs were sold last year as government departments, large corporates and small businesses alike bought new devices to enable the remote working that Covid-19 lockdowns demanded.
According to analyst group IDC Research, New Zealand's PC market saw 12.3% growth in unit shipments last year compared to 2019, with 826,000 devices shipped. The category getting the biggest boost, as you'd expect, was notebooks, which jumped 21.7%. Desktop shipments on the other hand dropped 15.1%.
The increased demand was more sharply felt in the commercial sector where PC shipments rose 13.1% compared to 5.2% in the consumer sector.
Liam Landon, Associate Market Analyst at IDC New Zealand, says the flurry of new computer orders in the business and education sectors came first, followed by a bump in consumer sales as "savings from lockdowns and a lack of international tourism meant consumers had greater discretionary incomes and a need for entertainment and online learning".
"As businesses move to recovery, there remains a requirement for greater focus on business continuity and mobility. This has meant that businesses and schools continue to move fleets onto notebooks and ensures that in commercial segments notebooks have stayed in high demand, while desktops have continued to decline," he added.
"However, demand around the world has seen similar increases which has led to shortages and an inability to fulfil all of the demand within the local market."
Those shortages started to bite late last year, with PC market shipments declining 9.1% in the final three months of the year, usually a strong period including the Christmas sales.
"The commercial market managed slight growth thanks to ongoing education demand, however supply shortages hindered the market and dragged other segments to declines. Another bright spot within the market was branded gaming which has seen an uptick as consumers shift entertainment channels," says Landon.
"The decline seen in 2020Q4 makes the record year of 2020 even more extraordinary."
So who were the big winners in 2020?
HP regained its status as top shipper in the last quarter of the year after suffering shortages in the previous three months. Acer was in the number 2 spot, with strong growth in Chromebook shipments to schools. Lenovo came in third, hit with its own supply issues. Coming off a bumper year for sales, the PC market will be in negative territory this year, with IDC estimating shipments will decline 5.5%. Sales will slow particularly in the commercial sector, with some ongoing demand in the consumer sector lessening the fall. IDC says there's a trend towards one digital device per person in households as the lockdown conditions saw people spending more time in the digital world for work, study and entertainment.
Australia saw a similar trend last year. According to the latest IDC Quarterly Personal Computing Devices Tracker 2020Q4, the Australian PC market (desktops, notebooks, workstations) grew by 11.8% to total of 4.87 million units for the year 2020. The market was driven mainly by growth in consumer segments, posting 29% increase year on year, while commercial was down by 2%.
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