Report: US Commercial Channel Sales Flat For Third Straight Year


Distributors and commercial channel partners' sales remained flat in 2012 for the third straight year, according to Port Washington, N.Y.-based research house NPD Group, using statistics based on sales-out data acquired from distributors and large resellers.

"The overall number is pretty flat, but when you look inside those overall numbers, not everything is flat," said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD. "Servers and PCs are down, but we are seeing things like storage and networking ahead of the rest of the market. Organizations are willing to spend money on meaningful IT improvements to keep themselves competitive."

The NPD Group's Distributor Track and Reseller Tracking Services measure the aggregate spend at approximately $58.5 billion. Computers and servers, consumables, networking equipment, software, and storage products were the top five revenue drivers in 2012, and nearly three-quarters of all commercial sales revenue came from these five categories. That statistic, as measured by NPD, has held steady for the past four years.

[Related: IDC: Worldwide PC Sales Continue To Sink, But HP Keeps Top Spot]

Computers and servers posted a 4.3 percent decline in 2012, compared to a surge of 25.3 percent in 2010 and a modest 3.9 percent increase in 2011. Total PC sales fell 7 percent in units in 2012, while average prices edged upwards to $764, an increase of $35 over the previous year. Desktop unit sales rose 4 percent from 2011, while notebook sales overall fell 13 percent. Specifically, Windows notebooks declined by 16 percent, whereas Mac sales rose by 15 percent. Windows 8 accounted for 18 percent of notebook sales and 5 percent of desktop sales through commercial channels during the fourth quarter.

Network equipment measured an increase of more than 24 percent in 2010 and then posted a slight increase of 1.3 percent in 2011, followed by a modest uptick of 1.7 percent last year.

Gains in the software market were measured at 13 percent in 2010, followed by negative growth of 3.7 percent in 2011 and continued negative growth of 2.7 percent last year.

Meanwhile, storage hardware has consistently measured growth, albeit uneven growth, of 14.6 percent in 2010, 4.8 percent in 2011 and 10.4 percent in 2012. The data suggested much of the growth in the storage hardware market has been propelled by a 50 percent increase in solid-state drive sales and strong growth in storage systems, such as network-attached storage, where sales increased 13.5 percent by revenue.

Meanwhile, ink, toner and similar consumables posted modest declines for each of the three years.

Baker expects that demand will remain steady in 2013.

"If I were a partner, I would tell my customers that this is the right time to invest," added Baker. "Commercial customers are willing to spend money over the short term to keep themselves competitive. That is exactly what partners need to stress in their sales presentations. Things are moving fast, and you don't want to be the last guy to hop on."

PUBLISHED JAN. 28, 2013