Unified communications (UC) hardware was among the biggest winners of
the pandemic. Demand surged as locked-down business users and students
scrambled to stay productive and connected from their homes. But
demand has since slumped.
However, the good news for the IT channel across Europe is that
revenue growth is starting to pick up again. With users now seeking
higher quality audio and video experiences from their equipment, Week
37 may come to be remembered as a turning point in the fortunes of the
For the past 8-10 weeks, all the major markets, and European panel,
have been stuck below the CONTEXT's Revenue Trend Index baseline. This
means that, week by week, revenue growth has not surpassed the weekly
average revenue of 2021.
In Week 37, revenue growth in Italy was 37% year-on-year (YoY) -
above that seen in other countries except Germany - thanks to strong
sales of collaboration display systems through corporate resellers in
all sales channels. However, Italy remains something of an outlier,
with revenues flat in Germany (growing only 0.7% YoY) and down in
Spain (-12%), Poland (-30%), France (-22%) and on the European panel (-16%).
In the year to date (YTD - that is, to Week 37), Spain is the only
major market that has seen growth (3%) while, despite a -4% fall,
Germany has gained three percentage points to overtake the UK where
revenues have slumped -24%. In France, revenues are down -16% and YTD
growth in Italy is still -26%. Poland is struggling with strong
comparatives from 2022 and revenues have fallen -33%. In contrast,
there has been significant revenue growth in Turkey (43% YoY and 27%
compared to the same period in 2021) driven by strong sales of
collaboration headsets from one vendor.
Retail-chain sales have surged in recent weeks: with revenues up 110%
YoY in Week 37 and 75% in Q3 making this now the third-biggest channel
after corporate resellers and small and medium resellers.
Yet, despite the appearance of a continued slump in revenue growth,
recent demand for UC products means sales in Week 37 were actually the
highest since the beginning of the quarter. This could be a sign of
longer-term improvement - especially for headsets, collaboration
cameras and conference solutions, which are the three biggest UC
categories, accounting for 69% of market value.
There are other reasons to be optimistic. Hybrid classrooms are
growing in popularity and UC users know that the hybrid working model
is here to stay. We hear that demand for higher quality collaborative
video and audio experiences is growing so, in turn, increasing demand
for premium products like 4D cameras and noise-cancelling headsets.
Sales of all-in-one collaboration products are also growing as users
look for more convenient ways to host video conferences and share
presentations. Channel players are positive about the market
opportunities this offers.
It is true that many companies are holding back on investment, due to
strong economic headwinds, but there is money available for devices
that can genuinely improve communication and collaboration between
employees and customers. Sales may not hit the highs seen in the early
months of the pandemic, but there are plenty of reasons to be
optimistic about the future for UC.
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