Overall PC sales in Western Europe fell by 22% during Q3 2022, according to the latest figures from analyst firm Canalys, as commercial demand, which is typically resilient in the region, fell by 20%.
Laptops took the biggest hit, down by a quarter with just 10.4 million units shifted, with Canalys citing 'deteriorating business confidence' as the driver.
And although desktop sales only dropped by 6%, helped by large enterprise demand even given the shift towards hybrid working in since the Covid-19 pandemic, tablets fell 13%, with 6 million units shipped, as an expected increase during new school terms failed to materialize.
Since the beginning of 2020, laptop sales had been steadily increasing, culminating in growth exactly one year on.
However, Q2 of 2021 saw hardly any year-on-year growth as the pandemic effects began to bite - and although the following quarter saw some increase, further stagnation arrived in Q4.
Q1 2022 marked the beginning of the market shrinkage, recording a -3% year-on-year drop, followed by a plummet to -18% in Q2, and finally -22% in Q3.
“Previously robust commercial spending on PCs is now falling at the same rate as the consumer segment," noted Canalys analyst Kieren Jessop.
"Small-to-medium sized businesses cut PC purchases significantly, more than larger organizations, as economic headwinds shrank cashflows and increased interest rates made financing options costlier."
Jessop further explained that consumer demand was affected by inflation in the region and rising energy costs. Since inflation impacts those on lower incomes the most, shipments for low-end PCs declined more than mid and high-end products, although Jessop expected the latter to decrease too as incomes continue to contract, forcing such customers to switch to low-end systems.
"Vendors with portfolios encompassing broader price ranges will be best set to capitalize on this”, he added.
Low demand for PCs has also inevitably led to a build up of inventory, with 38% of channel partners holding up to four weeks worth of PC stock, compared to 25% the previous year, according to a Canalys poll.
Looking ahead, Q4 2022 isn't expected to perform any better, as despite strong Black Friday sales in November, spending for the upcoming holidays is set to be the lowest in a decade as economic worries continue. Jessop said that "vendors will need to continue offering promotions to stir demand and clear inventory in what is shaping up to be a cold winter for the market."
In the long term, however, Canalys expects growth to pick up again, noting that Spring 2023 should see some growth as people upgrade devices bought during the pandemic, although many will hold off until 2024.
From the end of 2023 until 2026, regular seasonal patterns are expected, with a consistent demand level at around 25% of that pre-pandemic.
"Positive trends around consumer device usage and hybrid work mean there is still long-term optimism for PCs and tablets," Jessop noted.
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Lewis Maddison is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro. His area of expertise is online security and protection, which includes tools and software such as password managers.
His coverage also focuses on the usage habits of technology in both personal and professional settings - particularly its relation to social and cultural issues - and revels in uncovering stories that might not otherwise see the light of day.
He has a BA in Philosophy from the University of London, with a year spent studying abroad in the sunny climes of Malta.