Even as we are all stuck in our homes, sheltering in place or under quarantine, work demands continue for those of us lucky enough to be able to work from home. And of course ‘work’ is not restricted to paid employment, as many folks are involved in distance learning or trying to juggle a home with both adults working from home and managing their young children’s need to continue to be educated. Today’s technology makes all of this possible, a fact that has never been more obvious than in these last few weeks; but, it also requires us to have the equipment and home infrastructure to support it.
Whether working or learning from home, productivity hardware is required – and with many Americans settling into this new reality, we saw historic sales increases over the first two weeks of March. Categories such as monitors and PCs, as well as computer accessories such as keyboards, docking stations and mice, have almost all grown in double digits over this time and showed week to week increases far out of proportion to normal March sales. Computer monitor sales jumped almost 2x during the first 2 weeks of March, while mice and keyboard sales grew 10%, and notebook PCs also saw a 10% increase. The shift to working from home has also breathed new life into categories that were in decline, such as web cameras. With consumers embracing big screens and dual monitor setups, the first two weeks of March saw 80,000 units sold at retail – double that of the same timeframe in 2019.
Another area where we are seeing sales increases driven by preparation for the new Stay Home requirements is in NPD’s U.S. B2B Distributor and Reseller Tracking data. 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. According to our B2B sales data, notebook sales increased by almost 30% year-over-year for the last week in February and then saw an over 50% increase in the first two weeks of March. Monitor sales were flat at the beginning of February and then saw a 10% increase during the last week of the month and a 40% increase for the first two weeks of March.
With at-home productivity being the market’s current focus, consumers dismissed the need to upgrade their entertainment systems despite the prospect of remaining at home. While numerous accounts detail the growth in streaming service subscriptions for at home viewing and use of online gaming platforms, consumers made a conscious choice to curtail their entertainment hardware spending. According to NPD’s U.S. Weekly Retail Tracking Service, home entertainment products including TVs, soundbars and others saw a decline of 4% in spending for the first two weeks of March.
Mobile phone and accessory sales are also feeling the sting of our lack of mobility. While numerous reports are indicating declines in smartphone sales, NPD’s Retail Tracking Service shows cell phone accessories (cases, protectors, and power and cables) have fallen by 14% in units and dollars over the first two weeks of March. This is likely a result of consumers access their existing in-home power supplies, the fact that they aren’t on the go and in need of a charging solution, and aren’t wearing out their phones cases (case unit volume is the lowest in at least 5 years) eliminating most of their needs for new phone accessories.
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.