CONTEXT analysis of notebook distribution volumes shows no increase over 2017 so far

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Volume sales of consumer technology on Black Friday are unlikely to increase from the same period in 2017 in most major European countries, despite intense promotional activity from retailers, according to CONTEXT, the IT market intelligence company.

The firm based its predictions on analysis of distribution volumes into retailers and etailers, using its CONTEXT Saleswatch data to compare sales across a crucial six-week period at the start of Q4 versus a year ago. The notebook category was chosen as an indicator of what might happen in the wider consumer tech space.

“Most vendors prepare for this event in advance by ensuring most of their shipments to retailers and distributors are largely complete by the end of week 39. So distribution volumes into retail/etail after this time are a good indicator of consumer demand,” says Adam Simon, global MD at CONTEXT. “Overall we’re not seeing any major year-on-year volume sales increases in notebooks. And if there is growth in sell-out compared to 2017, it could mean a weaker December.”

In the UK there’s certainly no sign of a coming Black Friday sales spike, with volumes through distribution down 11% on 2017 in the six weeks to week 45, and down 35% compared to 2016. This chimes with wider research indicating growing consumer cynicism about the event, with many shoppers (43%) predicting that deals will be worse this year than last.

Distribution volumes in Germany were also down 11% over the six-week period versus 2017 and down 20% versus 2016, as Black Friday struggles to make an impact in a country which has its own low-cost shopping weekend events.

In France, distribution volumes were down 23% versus 2017 and 44% versus 2016. This can partly be explained by the launch of its own version of Black Friday dubbed “French Days”. Our data shows a year-on-year unit spike of +72% and +46% in weeks 39 and 40, which coincided with the latest two events.

Things are more positive in Spain, where distribution volumes in the six weeks to week 45 were down just 1% from 2017 and 7% from 2016. We predict the biggest Black Friday sales spike here, as the event is well entrenched in business and consumer practice.

In Italy, the opposite is true as the notebook industry doesn’t support the Black Friday hype, with PC discounts happening all year round. However, ironically, it is the only country of the five to have seen positive year-on-year growth in distribution sales over the six weeks to week 45 — up 4% compared to last year.