Businesses and consumers emptied distributors’ warehouses of notebooks across the UK during Q2 as lockdown kicked in, even buying stock that had been sat on the shelves for 12 months gathering dust.

According to sales-out shipment figures from Context, 1.363 million PCs were sold via distributors to resellers and onto end customers in the quarter, up 64.7 per cent year-on-year. And a staggering 1.207 million of these were portables, equating to an annual rise of 103.6 per cent.

Marie-Christine Pygott, senior analyst at the venerable number cruncher, told The Register of a “surge in demand” as businesses rushed to kit out workers to adapt to the new working conditions. Students and consumers also put their hand in their pocket to buy new lappies, she added.

Business notebooks went up 124.6 per cent in the quarter to 825,874 units, and consumer models climbed 55 per cent to 412,345. Desktop rigs didn’t fare so well, with biz hardware down 39.2 per cent to 104,944 and consumer desk-based system falling 24 per cent to 31,030.

Notebook workstation were up 76.1 per cent to 12,082 and desktop workstation dropped 42.5 per cent to 8,568.

Pygott said shortages of notebooks began to bite at the end of March and early April when the aftereffects of factory closures in China were felt, so strong demand outweighed supply and led to a backlog of orders. She said of Q2:

“The growth was extreme, but some of it was fulfilling demand from Q1 as well as new orders.”

As soon as stock arrived at the warehouse, it was almost immediately shipped out, Context said. This echoed a point made by the boss at services-based reseller Computacenter, who joked in March that “people are buying PCs in the same way they are buying loo rolls.”

Such was the desire for product, distributors “in some cases used old stock that was around for 12 months. They were able to clear stock as companies took every product that there was,” said Pygott.

Sales-out shipments were also up 26 per cent in Germany, 34.9 per cent in Italy, 23.5 per cent in Spain and up 17.7 per cent in France.

Context said distributors operating in the UK sell to a higher proportion of corporate resellers than their country operations on mainland Europe, and larger enterprises were the ones that fuelled the notebook sales stampede in Britain.

So will this frenzy continue and for how long? Context isn’t making forecasting in a crisis, at least not ones it is willing to make public. “No one knows,” she told us earnestly.

Certain industries, from hospitality to the airline sectors, have been hurt, perhaps irreparably, and “will there be a second wave, and if so, how will governments support businesses?” Well. Quite.

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