Pandemic leads to global IT market growth in the first half of 2021

The global IT retail market recorded nearly $63.9bn (eds: €57bn) in the first half of 2021 (excluding North America). This was a +27% increase from the same period last year. The stay-at-home trend remains relevant and double-digit growth rates are observed across IT hardware and accessories. GfK expects this trend to continue in the second half of the year. These are GfK’s findings for the global IT market.

“As the pandemic situation was becoming long-term, we observed a strong demand for IT products in the first six months of 2021. This trend since the onset of the pandemic last year is expected to continue throughout the second half of the year.

However, with raw material prices increasing, as well as component shortages, the price level of PCs and PC accessories has also grown strongly and could become a hurdle to further growth, especially in regions with lower purchasing power,” explains Sohjin Baek, GfK’s expert for the global IT hardware industry.

Looking at sales of mobile PCs in the first six months of 2021, this crucial “all-in-one” equipment for remote work and learning tends to stand out in regions more affected by the pandemic. This resulted, for instance, in a +64% turnover increase in Latin America and +50% in Southeast Asia (including India) from January to June 2021.

However, the market is not only reacting to the real-time COVID-19 incidence tracker. Regions that had already experienced initial pandemic-heightened demand last year, such as China and Europe (including CIS), continued to see strong turnover increases, of +28% and +17% respectively. This strong regional demand contributed to +23% global mobile PC retail turnover growth valued at $30.5 billion in the first half of 2021. 

IT hardware as an essential solution for a hybrid lifestyle 

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, consumers still spend more time in hybrid setups, working and learning from home. They are therefore continuing to invest in alternative and additional equipment at a notable level. Global desktop/all-in-one (AIO) PC sales posted +26% turnover growth at $7.0 billion, while it had seen a slump at -9.5% during the same period last year. A must-have accompaniment to desktop PC and extended mobile PC use, global monitor sales accordingly peaked with a +37% revenue increase resulting in $4.3 billion. 

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Photo: Raymond Hsu / Unsplash

According to a GfK Consumer Insights Engine study, 26% of mobile PC purchases* in the first quarter of 2021 were triggered by replacement of a working product, which is 5%age points higher than the previous year period. This increased response indicates that mobile PC sales have been on a healthy replacement cycle despite the latest supply shortages and price increases. 

Gaming boosted sales for keyboards, mice, and headsets

With COVID-19 restrictions loosening and people requesting hybrid setups for work and school, the demand for keyboards, mice, and headsets soared. 

“Computer keyboards, mice and headsets for both gaming and office usage generated $2.8 million in revenue in the first six months of 2021, equating to a tremendous revenue growth of +26% for keyboards, +23% for mice and +38% for headsets compared to the first half of 2020. Even compared to the pre-pandemic period in 2019, all three categories recorded growth, meaning that COVID-19 boosted sales in a more long-term way,” says Ines Haaga, GfK´s expert for the global IT/office industry. “Consumers were especially in favour of Bluetooth devices, as they allow users to be mobile and flexible and to work anywhere and anytime without sacrificing any functions or comfort.”

Gaming keyboards grew by +30% in the first half of 2021. They realised a global revenue of $425 million and represented 45% of the global PC keyboard revenue. With mechanical keyboards firmly established within the gaming mass market, the focus in 2021 has been on mobility and flexibility: Cordless gaming keyboards were able to increase their revenue share from four to ten%, and smaller form factors such as tenkeyless keyboards and devices with a size of 60% (compared to a standard keyboard) also expanded their share of the market. 

The shift to cordless and Bluetooth devices could also be observed for the Non-Gaming segment, with 32% of all non-gaming PC keyboard revenue being realised by models supporting a Bluetooth interface. 

Growth for PC mice was especially driven by the gaming segment, which represents 47% of mice revenue in 2021. Gaming mice were able to record growth in corded and cordless segments with models providing both Bluetooth and a cable successfully realising revenue growth of +251%. In addition, ambidextrous form factors promising more comfortable use for both left- and right-handed users outperformed the gaming mice market with revenue growth of +73%. 

COVID-19 a turning point for media tablet market 

It was not only conventional PCs and accessories that were outfitting consumers’ homes. Global media tablet sales also experienced double-digit growth, at +35%, with $11 billion in the first half year of 2021. 

Media tablet sales have been in decline for years, but COVID-19 has proven to be a turning point in the market. The device offers to be a PC alternative for education and productivity, so recent supply shortages of mobile PCs have led media tablets to partially absorb this unmet demand. Consumers spending more time at home are also a strong driver in terms of media consumption and entertainment. 

Sales of products with large display sizes (9 inches and above) saw +45% revenue growth, while sales of smaller screens declined, at -16%. Sales of Wi-Fi-only products also outperformed cellular model sales at +49% revenue growth, while cellular model sales stayed at a +5% increase. 

Photo – top of page: Resul Kaya / Unsplash

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