March 2021

Welcome to this month's IT Market Alert from KnowledgeBus. This alert is designed to deliver some key market knowledge viewed during February 2021 that should help you get more from your IT procurement going forwards.


Executive Summary

  • PC sales skyrocketed
  • Apple dominated UK phone market after iPhone 12 launch
  • Semiconductor shortage pushes prices higher


The largest number of price increases happened on February 25th, with 45,469.

Jump to Monthly Stats

The biggest news for the channel this month, as for the rest of the economy, was of course the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, with at least one major investor suggesting that it could spark a 20% pullback in the technology markets overall. The virus is beginning to show up in supplier revenue forecasts. Lite-On expects Q1 revenues to drop 20-30% due to the outbreak, and Apple issued a profit warning as a direct result of the outbreak's effect on Chinese production capacity, causing stocks to slide and equity to rise.

February saw some positive signs for the IT channel, especially in areas such as PCs and displays, where shipments have been soaring. However, pressures remain on the supply side, as manufacturers struggle to keep up with demand in areas including semiconductors and display substrates.

CONTEXT Research saw the UK pull back from a revenue dip in January relative to the average four-week revenue across all European countries in 2019. It now joins most countries other than France in performing above that index for the whole of February. Corporate reseller revenues fell relative to other channels such as retail and etailers across Europe, including the UK, where consumer etailer revenues grew 69% YoY during February and retail revenues grew 55% compared to flat corporate reseller revenues.


Exchange Rate

The euro lost ground against the dollar early in February, regaining ground but failing to sustain any real momentum. It started at 1.2095 on Feb 1 before falling quickly to its monthly low of 1.192 on Feb 4. A faltering recovery saw it plateau at around 1.2040 before a more decided rise between Feb 8 and Feb 11, when it hit 1.2127. It plateaued until it dropped sharply to 1.2062 on Feb 17, and then rose to a monthly high of 1.2193 on Feb 25. Then, it deflated to limp in at 1.2069 at the month's end.

The EUR/GBP curve looked markedly different, decreasing steadily from an initial high of 0.8827 at the start of the month. A steeper initial drop to 0.8754 on Feb 5 preceded a plateau until Feb 12, when it began a steady fall from 0.8769. The decrease finished with a slight escalation on Feb 24, when the euro reached its month's low of 0.8593 against the pound. Then, it saw a sharp uptick to 0.8687 through Feb 26, but it was a half-hearted effort. The euro finished the month at 0.8661.

British Pound (GBP) per 1 Euro (EUR)

Why were the curves so different? The pound saw a massive rally in February as the vaccination effort kindled talk that the economy would reopen quickly. That overrode any fluctuations in the euro. The dollar's fortunes were less consistent, as weaker-than-expected US inflation data and Fed chair Jerome Powell's indication that interest rates would stay untouched affected the dollar's value.

US Dollar (USD) per 1 Euro (EUR)

Euro (EUR) per 1 British Pound (GBP)

US Dollar (USD) per 1 British Pound (GBP)

Price Changes and News Through February 2021


Phones and Tablets


Counterpoint Research had Apple phones in the top four slots in the UK in its October data, which it published at the beginning of February. The iPhone 12 led with a 13% market share, followed by the iPhone 11 (10%), the iPhone 12 Pro (6%) and the iPhone SE 2020 (6%).

Don't expect much from Huawei's smartphone operation next year. The company has warned suppliers that it will slash smartphone output by over 60% to between 70 and 80m smartphones in 2021 thanks in part to its economic conflict with the US.

Traditional PCs

The EMEA PC market was set for its strongest growth in Q2 2021, according to IDC. It said that shipments will grow 39.1% YoY in 2021, heralding a year of more moderate but still healthy growth of 16% YoY to reach 96.4m units for the whole of 2021. The Western European market will grow 25.6% in Q1 and will see double-digit growth until Q3, the company said. The consumer market will fare particularly well in Q1 with 60.5% growth, which would be the strongest on record. Desktops will grow 21.6%, driven largely by the gaming market, but the real sweet spot will be notebooks, which will grow 70.2% YoY.

CONTEXT noted strong growth in PC shipments among Western Europe's largest distributors in January, with a 20% YoY increase during the month. This continues a rise of 21% in Q4, it said. However, it cited poor fortunes for desktops in Western Europe, seeing a 38% dip in January. Notebook shipments rose 48%.

Education drove a large proportion of PC sales, and the UK shipped more PCs to schools than any other country during the lockdowns, CONTEXT noted. It accounted for 36% of all laptops shipped to schools last year in Europe, the company said.

Premium Ultramobiles & Wearables

Apple's share of the global smartwatch market grew to a high in Q4, said Counterpoint Research. The company led the market with a 40% share, up from 28% in Q3, far outpacing the next-highest vendor, Samsung, which had a 10% share. Apple's share increase came from smaller vendors in the 'others' category, along with Huawei, which saw its global share drop to 8% in Q4 from 14% in Q3.

Processors, MEMs, Semiconductors

Global semiconductor sales increased 13.2% YoY in January to $40bn, said the Semiconductor Industry Association. Scrutiny of chip production is high at the moment as the world continues to grapple with a semiconductor shortage, driven both by technology vendor stockpiling during the pandemic, and by reduced procurement among other manufacturers, especially in the auto industry. YoY sales increased 6.4% in Europe during January.

Strong demand from select technology manufacturers is exacerbating the semiconductor supply problem. Gartner noted that Apple and Samsung extended their lead as top semiconductor customers in 2020, each increasing their spend by around a quarter during 2020. Apple's purchases now represent 11.9% of the total worldwide semiconductor market, while Samsung's spend represented 8.1%. Huawei was the third-biggest spender, representing 4.2%, but its spending plummeted 23.5% YoY. Lenovo and Dell sat in fourth and fifth place.

All this is driving revenues in semiconductor foundries. TrendForce reported that the top ten foundries would expected revenues to increase 20% YoY in Q1 as they continue to operate under full load.


Server DRAM contract prices are on the rise, TrendForce reported. It expects them to rise by 10-15% in Q2. Production capacity has been hit by increased demand from the consumer electronics sector, and this, combined with an expected cyclical Q2 upturn in server procurement and a rise in demand from cloud datacentres as companies migrate to the cloud, creates the right conditions for a larger price increase than the originally predicted 8-13%.


NAND flash revenues dipped by 2.9% in Q4 to $14.1bn, said TrendForce. Bit shipments increased 9%, mostly offsetting a 9% fall in average selling price (ASP). Prices stabilised on strong notebook sales which have prompted additional SSD orders from OEMs. A supply-side crunch driven by increased orders from those silicon-hungry smartphone vendors we mentioned earlier have also helped buoy up pricing, the analyst company said.

These factors will stimulate eMMC prices in the consumer market, which will grow between 3-8% in Q2, TrendForce predicted. 2D NAND packages will rise up to 5% in Q2. It won't heat up prices too much across the board, though. Mobile NAND flash pricing will be mostly flat, as will client SSDs and 3D NAND wafers. Enterprise SSDs will fall 10-15% in Q1, easing to around a 5% drop in Q2.


Monitors are in high demand, according to CONTEXT, which reported sales of desktop monitors up 33% in Q4 across the European landscape that it monitors. Consumers and SMBs were the primary driver, it said, noting a marked increase in sales since the beginning of the pandemic. Sales to corporate resellers declined by 6% YoY in Q4.

Gamers are driving lots of sales during the pandemic. Gaming monitors, which refresh at 100MHz or more, are a good example. They experienced a 105% YoY growth in 2020, TrendForce said. The company expects a more modest 41% growth this year to exceed 25m units.

This period of high demand increases the effect of disruptions to the supply chain. The analyst firm points to a furnace explosion at a South Korean glass substrate manufacturing plant at the end of January as a key factor in projected high prices through Q2, especially since glass substrate supply was already strained.


IDC saw a 5.6% YoY increase in worldwide shipments of hardcopy peripherals to 27m units in Q4 2020. However, shipment values dropped 5.1% to $11.1bn, leading to an overall drop of 12.3% in market value for the whole year due to low shipments of high-end office devices.

In Western Europe, the company noted that printer and MFP shipments increased 5% YoY in Q4 to reach 5.35m units. Market values also fell in this region, though, following a reduction in A3 and production device shipments.

IDC noted a 17.6% growth in the UK market during Q4 2020, driven by the consumer inkjet and laser markets. A3 sales were down in the UK by a third, and the strong growth during Q4 wasn't enough to offset an overall fall in 2020 printer shipments.


Monthly Stats

Price rises started at 6,263 on Feb 1 before hitting their month's high of 44,283 the following day. From there, they plummeted to their February low of 3,941 on Feb 5. They then enjoyed a stepped increase to 29,218 on Feb 15 before falling dramatically to 5,302 the following day. This pattern repeated, although far less pronounced, rising unsteadily to 16,425 on Feb 22 before falling to 4,852 on Feb 23. Price rises finished out the month at 8,768.

Price drops began the month at 12,866 before enjoying a month of increasing highs. They reached 35,322 on Feb 5, 39,992 on Feb 11, and 40,919 on Feb 16 before reaching the month's high at 46,150 on Feb 22. That was punctuated only by an unusual and short-lived dip to the month's low of 8,331 on Feb 15.

Stock increases and decreases were far less volatile. After starting the month at a low of 1,851, stock increases ranged in the 3,000s for most of the month, with occasional dips into the 2,000s and five spikes above 4,000.

Decreases in stock started the month at 9,712 before rising to their month high of 14,180. After that, it ranged between the high 10,000s and low-mid 12,000s, other than two trips into the mid-high 13,000s at the start of February's third week and the end of the month.

New products stayed in low double figures aside from a spike to 212, 183, and 330 on February 22, 23, and 24.

New Products February 2021

Prices and Stock Movements February 2021