This article aims to answer the question as in the title – Why is it hard to buy laptops this Q3 2020? The answer may seem as simple as saying “Pandemic” but it’s actually more complicated than that. Truth be told, the pandemic may be the root cause but it, in fact, is no longer the ONLY cause. If you do a quick search on google, you’ll be greeted by dozens and dozens of articles talking about PC shortages.
However, the PC shortage didn’t just start when the pandemic hit the world – it actually started mid-2019 as global supply was already not enough to keep up with the global demand. We just never felt it on the same scale as now because the urgency wasn’t there before. Simply, buying a laptop pre-pandemic was more of a want rather than a need and it was okay to put it off for some time but now that we’re all bracing ourselves for a true DIGITAL/WORK FROM HOME set up – we all find ourselves competing for the very little stock there is – which to be honest, isn’t much of a variety at all. It’s no longer okay to put off buying a laptop until one has “saved enough”.
At the back of our heads, we all know that there’s a possibility that we may not be able to get one good enough for our needs if we put off making the purchase now. And that is what is making it hard to buy laptops this Q3 2020.
It’s not the shortage, per se. That has been there since 2019. It’s really more of the surge in urgency of having a laptop so that we can all continue making a living.
Is it the brands fault?
We’ve seen many customers blame brands for “poor planning” and “having no alternative actions” but it may not be the brands fault, to begin with. Our sources actually tell us that the brands combined have been bringing inthousands of laptops in the country in numbers never seen before in a single quarter. However, it’s still not enough.
Interviewing a few retailers and sellers in Cyberzone also gave us the same picture. Where some retailers had stock enough to sell for atleast 6 months given the sales rate 6 months ago, those very same retailers only have less than a months worth of inventory today and diminishing rapidly.
One could further pose the question “Why don’t the brands just bring in more stock?”. It’s a good question, and frankly if they did – it would solve everything. But the global surge is not found just in the Philippines but worldwide. The PC market is seeing atleast a 50% surge in demand and it’s wiping out stocks in many countries that are reshaping the way they do businesses – not just in the consumer segment but also in the corporate segments.
Yes – as consumers, we’re now also competing with businesses for stock/inventory in the retail space. In fact, if you look at worldwide numbers – You’ll see that HP and ACER, for example, has shipped 17.1% and 23.6% more than they did in the same period last year.
To put that in numerical perspective, HP shipped over 2 Million more PCs than they did in Q2 2019 and ACER shipped in 1 Million more. Lenovo, the #1 PC brand, also shipped in 1.5Million more PCs than they did versus Q2 2019 for a total of 16.2Million PCs just for the period of April May and June. All in all, 64.8 Million PCs have been shipped worldwide in Q2 2020 alone.
To be honest, PH doesnt even make a dent in those numbers. Locally, laptop brands bring in a rough combined total of 250,000 laptops per quarter. That’s barely 0.5% of worldwide shipments. But imagine, ~250,000 laptops arrived in Q2 2020 and that wasn’t enough for the current surge in demand. Crazy, right?
What can the brands do?
At this point, it’s important to know that it’s not just the consumers and businesses fighting for inventory to purchase. The top brands themselves are also fighting for allocation from component suppliers like Intel, AMD, Nvidia – including memory brands, storage brands and even panel makers.
These shortages in componets cause delays (that were unforeseen) to pop up left and right. Worse, it may already be uncontrollable on a country level. To make matters worse, we have our own roadblocks in country – including logistical delays and other form of delays given PC’s are not necessarily considered “essentials” in this pandemic. Priority still goes to food supply and medicine.
Nevertheless, we know for a fact that the brands are doing everything they can to expedite stocks to hit the shelves of retailers for end users and businesses, alike. We’ve already heard of brands bringing in inventory via air logistics instead of sea shipments to bridge the gaps, even if it costs them 5x more to do so.
To make up for the surge in demand, brands have had to build new factories too. And building extra factories don’t come quick. It may be early 2021 before we see the effects of new factories in terms of supply.
Bear in mind though, It’s actually not as easy as deciding “Hey, lets build a new factory to keep up” because the surge is definitely temporary. If all brands decided to open new factories, then there will be an oversupply after the surge has died down and the factories will have to be closed down and marked as losses and jobs will have to be cut. It may only be the worlds 2 top brands who can decide to do this and not lose out in the end.
On the local side of things, some brands like ACER and LENOVO, have also run limited time cash offers that ran from May-June to make it easier for consumers to equip themselves with devices for work. However, how long these brands can continue to offer laptop prices at break-even levels to support the working class is something we currently have no answer to.
For other brands, they have made announcements on social media for availability of goods to ensure that everyone is aware, although arrival dates are all not set in stone. Recently, ASUS has announced the availability of their 10th Generation equipped Vivobook S 2020 series. Quantities and actual availabilities in retail stores are not disclosed though.
So what can WE, as consumers, do?
Not a lot, to be honest, except to be patient. Our constant complaints and display of entitlement just makes it harder for brands to carry on their utmost role these days to make sure you get your stock. The more complaints they have to deal with that they can not do so much about, the less time they have to ensure availability is expedited.
We can take advantage of pre-order promotions but also have to understand that there are things beyond anyone’s control given the current situation. We are all adjusting to this new normal and everyone is figuring out as they go.
Our local government hasn’t been very helpful with the adjustments, either. We haven’t seen any new policies or guidelines take place that benefit or help bridge getting a device for working from home easy on anyone.
No one foresaw this pandemic. It has been 5 months and brands have tried their best to adjust and make provisions but there’s still a lot more improvement to be had. It takes more than 6 months to a year to adopt to new processes and standards. It doesn’t happen overnight. At the current rate, it may not be until early 2021 where we see the measures taken by global brands take their effect.
Until then, there’s really not much we can do.
So, to summarize, it’s hard to buy a laptop because of more than one reason. It’s not that brands did not decide to bring more stock but that they aren’t able to. It’s also not that the brands aren’t planning properly or ensuring goods availability but there’s currently no way to make it easier or faster to do so. Further, as consumers – we are fighting for inventory in the same space now as small, medium and even large businesses.
To put things in perspective too, stocks do arrive in the country in thousands. They just also run out as fast as they come. And this situation isn’t going to change soon.