The value of the global market for technical consumer goods (excluding North America) grew two per cent in the full year, according to new data from GfK.
Norbert Herzog, GfK’s expert on technical consumer goods, explains: “An unprecedented year lies behind us – and in the end, Covid-19 turned out to be a driver of the tech and durables industry.
“This will have lasting effect as household digitisation was fast-tracked and consumers invested heavily in their IT equipment and home appliances. Today, the number of products owned per household is higher than ever, pushing TCG markets to increased revenue levels long-term.”
GfK points to a clear divide between Developed and Emerging regions globally. In Europe and Developed Asian regions, consumers invested in their homes (+eight per cent value growth in 2020 year-on-year). Emerging markets in Asia and Latin America, however, posted a decline of -four per cent versus 2019. Being hit first in January 2020, China contributed to this negative result. The market recovery in China accelerated as 2020 progressed but was unable to compensate for the losses overall. And the world’s biggest lockdown in India devastated all sales in the month of April across the country.
eCommerce boosted by lockdown
GfK’s experts believe that the boost to the eCommerce channel driven by the 2020 lockdowns is irreversible, and consumers have high expectations of the channel for 2021. But the biggest winners in the top five European markets (Germany, UK, Italy, Spain, France) were not the pure online players who grew at a strong +39 per cent versus 2019. Rather, it was the online shops of traditional retail that outperformed the market, with +69 per cent uptick. Many consumers remained loyal to their known physical retailers when they were forced to move their shopping online. As a result, peak growth rates of 200+ per cent became a reality during some lockdown weeks.
Distributors proved to be reliable partners during the pandemic. From January to December 2020, the number of brands sold by distributors increased by 6 per cent, as more brands followed indirect shipment strategies to safeguard the channel’s supply. Distributor sales surged, with a plus of 4 per cent in volume in Europe. In Europe, the share of point-of-sale volume, sourced via distribution for Mobile PCs, Desk PCs and Media Tablets grew in 2020 versus 2019. It peaked in the first post-lockdown period at +67 per cent (July 2020) as distributors sold a staggering 20 per centage points more volume to retailers and resellers than in July 2019.
This high demand was not only generated by working and studying at home but was also driven by the demand for gaming PCs. In the first four weeks of 2021, sales of Mobile PCs are up +48 per cent and Desk PCs up +59 per cent versus 2020. Gaming accessories have also seen a sales growth.
The impact of new lockdowns in 2021
So far in 2021, high COVID-19 infection rates have mainly impacted Developed markets, particularly Europe and the Americas. In comparison, to date Asian countries have often been able to avoid new lockdowns.
When comparing last year’s initial March/April lockdowns with those in November/December in the five biggest European countries, the overall negative effect seems reduced. In fact, sales of technical consumer goods even increased during week 47 of 2020 to week two of 2021, up by 11 per cent. During the first lockdown (weeks 11 to 19 2020) sales declined by -five per cent. This is because the closure of traditional retail was avoided as much as possible, and when it did happen, it was not at the same time across Europe.
When comparing lockdowns in the largest market Germany like-for-like, the impact is quite similar. We see double-digit losses during the weeks when shops were closed – both in March/April as well as in December/January.
Norbert Herzog concludes: “New lockdowns encroached into the peak season in Germany and online retail struggled to satisfy the inevitable high demand. Supply increasingly became a limiting factor and warehouses were understocked already before the new December/January lockdowns.”
As markets have shifted from demand- to supply-driven, growth dynamics will rely even more heavily on the industry’s ability to get the right products to consumers at the right time. As long as contact restrictions are in place, strong demand will continue to shape the tech and durables retail scene. And the expected economic recovery in the emerging Asian countries will drive demand there putting further pressure on supply.
On the other hand, what GfK expects to see – especially in Developed markets – is sales declines once the focus shifts from staying home in the second half of 2021 – assuming a high success rate for vaccinations.