We check out bags and other peripherals designed for notebooks

Sector guide: Laptop accessories

The laptop market has enjoyed a period of unprecedented growth recently, and the accessories that can be sold along with them have seen a concurrent boost in sales.

As sales of desktop devices diminish, reflecting a shift in consumer interest towards mobility, the opportunities for selling the associated peripherals represents a real growth area for the industry.

Indeed, it is clear that a large number of vendors and distributors are seeing the potential in these products, as increasing numbers of them are launching ranges of branded or design-focused accessories.

The reason for this is simple: laptop bags and accessories are a low-cost addon sale with clear benefits for the consumer. They also make an ideal gift item, leading to natural sales booms during the festive period.

“The obvious spike in sales is Christmas,” notes Reece Cummings, sales and marketing manager at G&BL Accessories. “But with the laptop now almost an essential part of a student’s kit, coming close this year was the runup to back to school. When you’ve got new pencils you want a new pencil case.”

While there is the natural sales spike at certain times of year, these products are increasingly an evergreen sales opportunity as consumer uptake in mobile PCs continues. Realtime’s product manager Hannah Horne notes that the company “does not notice a great seasonal fluctuation as laptops are bought throughout the year.”

The greater uptake in laptop sales has definitely had an effect on the popularity of laptop accessories, but the increase in spec and changes in customers’ expectations of the capabilities of the devices has also affected sales.

“It’s not just on the obvious accessories such as sleeves and bags,” comments Cummings. “We’ve seen very positive growth in our range of cleaning products such as screen cleaners, keyboard brushes, and connectivity – mostly HDMI – as well, reflecting consumers’ growing entertainment requirements of laptops.”

In addition to changing attitudes towards the laptops themselves, the wider audience of potential customers has seen a shift in the types of accessories that are sold. Once, a laptop bag only had to be large enough to hold any size device and padded enough to prevent damage, but now some consumers want to see a greater emphasis on design and personalisation – something that can be seen across the industry.

“We’ve observed and reacted to the growing interest in design by introducing a new range of bags and sleeves under the new brand called Coverized,” says Cummings. “Designed by two Italian fashion designers who have worked with the likes of Prada and Gucci, the range reflects the major fashion trends. This development came about as a direct result of customer and retailer feedback. Functionality is still key – it’s no use having a beautiful laptop bag that offers no protection – but the need for accessories to be representative of the customer’s personality and match their style is of equal importance.”

Horne concurs with this view, noting that design can often have a strong appeal for the ‘mainstream’ consumer: “Our Sweex product range is bought primarily because of the design. The bright colours make these products appealing to mainstream computer users. These products have been designed to make using a computer fun rather than competitive. This audience is not looking for high-end features so the bright colourful design is the reason for purchase.”

However, this is not to say that design and aesthetics are now the most important factors in a sale. “For enthusiast PC gamers functionality will be the primary reason for their purchase,” states Horne. “They are looking for a product that will give them a competitive advantage and this will only be found in high quality, technologically advanced products.”

So although the emphasis on what’s important in deciding a sale has shifted to reflect the increasingly mainstream aspect of the IT trade, the fact that the laptop is increasingly seen as a necessary purchase rather than a luxury means that the bags and other accessories sold with them represent a vast business opportunity.

SRP: £104.99
Distributor: EntaTech

They say: The world’s smallest universal adapter that’s created to revolutionise your mobile life

Features: Can charge a notebook and USB devices at the same time, compatible with most popular brands, integrated protection, Energy Star certification

SRP: £29.99
Distributor: Gem

They say: The flight bag from Exspect features digitally inspired art provided by Joystick Junkies. The bag has been created using unique designs on the exterior whilst a pixellated theme continues the funky design inside the bag

Features: Stores laptops, netbooks and consoles, PU leather material, retro flight bag design, front pocket

SRP: £109.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas

They say: Features a soft and luxurious scratch-resistant plush fabric with cushioned protective padding to provide maximum
 for your priceless asset

Features: Scratch-resistant fabric, padded enclosure, elastic corners, front pockets for cables and accessories, magnetic closure on front pocket, retractable handles

SRP: £99.99
Distributors: Interactive Ideas, EntaTech

They say: Keeps your gear secure and protected on the go. The ubercool design and heavily padded back panels are ideal, while the subdivided main compartment easily holds up to a large 17.3-inch laptop

Features: Fits widescreen laptops up to 17.3 inches, TSA compliant, interior pockets, wireless security shield, ergonomic backing and straps, lifetime warranty

SRP: £29.95
Distributor: Realtime Distribution

They say: The new awardwinning Sweex HD webcam stands out because of its stylish design and good value for money

Features: Eight colour options, USB 2.0 connection, five element glass lens, exposure control, compatible with both Windows and Mac

SRP: £40.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas

They say: The ergonomic design with rubber side inlays makes for a firm grip while the 2.4 GHz wireless operation gives a smooth and immediate mouse response with a range up to eight meters

Features: Six-button wireless mouse, ergonomic design, eight metre range, high precision laser sensor, smart link technology, power saving technology, adjustable resolution

SRP: £54.99
Distributor: Meroncourt

They say: Offers everything you’d typically expect from an ingenious mobile gaming mouse in a compact design – and it does it all completely wirelessly

Features: 2.4GHz wireless connection with 1000Hz polling, dual functionality for each button, profile settings including personalised macros, macro manager, Griptech grips, USB charging cable

SRP: £49.99
Distributor: Eurotech

They say: An elegant all-in-one micro speaker system, perfect for laptop and netbook users

Features: Dynamic USB-powered and streamed micro speaker system, full-range magnetically shielded speaker drivers with bass reflection port

SRP: £18.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas

They say: Chat pack including high quality webcam and headset for chatting and video conferencing. A complete, easy to install package to see and hear each other online

Features: Includes webcam and headset, 640 x 480 webcam resolution, USB 2.0 connection, no drivers needed, self adjusting webcam clamp/stand, lightweight stereo headset with integrated microphone, inline volume control

SRP: £22.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas

They say: Improves the cooling efficiency of your notebook and protects your furniture from heat, making the computer work more effectively and safely. Also protects from any damage that a notebook can cause on certain materials

Features: Five adjustable heights, two cooling fans, reinforced aluminium inlay, protective rubber
pads, lightweight flat foldable
design, USB powered, suitable for
sizes up to 17.4 inches

SRP: £24.99
Distributor: Meroncourt

They say: The ideal VoIP phone for laptop computers, thanks to its retractable connection cable and its compact and light body.

Features: Phonebook function, plug and play USB adaptor, Skype autostart, echo cancellation, retractible cable, compact design

SRP: £24.99
Distributor: PSA Parts

They say: The 2-Power universal AC and DC adapters have been a favourite among retailers for many years. The premium quality, wide compatibility and automatic voltage changing tips have always been extremely popular

Features: Universal charger, voltage sensitive tips, plug and play functionality, attractive blister packaging

SRP: £14.99
Distributor: PSA Parts

They say: 2-Power’s universal laptop battery gives users up to another five hours of usage away from the mains

Features: 175 watt DC to AC power inverter, 12 volt input, 230 AC volt output

SRP: £49.99
Distributor: Eurotech

They say: Going compact does not mean accepting average sound quality with the feature-packed Aurora series. The unique aluminium tube subwoofer provides detailed bass, whilst the ultra smooth sounding full range satellites offer superb clarity

Features: 2.1 portable audio, 15 watt subwoofer, magnetically shielded full-range spherical satellites with metal weave speaker grill, universal power supply

SRP: £12.99
Distributor: EntaTech

They say: Offers a complete cleaning solution for your laptop

Features: Contains one 3.5oz compressed gas duster, one suede microfibre cleaning cloth, four cleaning swabs, one 4oz cleaning spray

SRP: £17.99
Distributor: Meroncourt

They say: Its compact and innovative design allows its placement on top of a laptop screen, TFT monitor or a plain surface

Features: 640 x 480 VGA resolution, up to 30fps capture speed, special button for taking photos, automatic exposure and gain control, integrated microphone, 1.3MP image resolution

SRP: £21.99
Distributor: Meroncourt

They say: Combines the convenience and protection of bags for laptops up to 16.4-inch with the durability and resistance of the best bags, blended together to make an elegant urban style

Features: Inner protective padded cover, adjustable shoulder strap, multiple compartments, holds laptops up to 16.4 inches

SRP: £29.99
Distributor: EntaTech

They say: Includes a 16-inch notebook bag and optical mouse to carry and use your notebook in style

Features: Extra zipped compartments, adjustable shoulder strap, high quality finish with durable fabric and metal fittings, ambidextrous mouse

SRP: £66.99
Distributor: Realtime Distribution

They say: Brings mobile gaming mouse standards to new heights with its small form factor and bleeding-edge technology

Features: Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity, dual wired/wireless mode, Razer Precision 3G sensor

SRP: £19.99
Distributor: Meroncourt

They say: The first ergonomic docking pad with wrist rests which incorporates an useful numeric keyboard

Features: Sponge wrist rest, integrated numeric keypad, three port USB hub, optimised for laser and optical mice

SRP: £99
Distributor: PSA Parts

They say: Gives users up to another five hours of usage away from the mains. As with the adapters the batteries come with eight voltage sensitive tips

Features: Secondary battery for laptops, five-hour battery life, voltage sensitive tips

SRP: £34.99
Distributor: Realtime Distribution

They say: The Razer Moray+ mobile gaming communicator is designed for gamers who prefer to travel light and without bulky headsets

Features: Omnidirectional inline microphone, passive noise isolation, compatible with multiple devices including Sony PSP, Nintendo DS and Apple iPhone

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