The results are in. Let's get some real insight into the High Street and find out where it can grow

PCR Retail Survey: Almost a third of PC & tech dealers don’t have a website

PCR quizzed 100 retailers from across the UK, from small indies up to chains, about the highs and the lows of 2012 and their hope for technology retail in 2013.

They provided anonymous and therefore hopefully honest answers, to give much-needed insight into what’s happening on the frontlines of the channel.

Sometimes the results seemed contradictory – 34 per cent of respondents felt online competition was the biggest problem facing the retail channel, but a whopping 28 per cent didn’t have a website.

As we’ve seen from the collapse of retailers such as Comet, Jessops and now potentially HMV, retailers have to be multi-channel if they want to succeed. The internet is a big part of that, whether it’s actually offering product online or providing information to would-be customers in your local area.

What we need to do now is identify areas for growth, and find out how best to combat the remaining problems. The first step, of course, should be to get a website if you don’t already have one.

Let’s get to it:

It was a pleasant surprise to find that the majority of the retailers that PCR spoke to (largely independents, from up and down the country), reported that business had improved or at least remained the same since the previous year (71 per cent).

Eleven per cent of retailers’ websites had seen significantly improved business, 15 per cent had grown slightly and 23 per cent had stayed the same. Only 13 per cent had seen a dip.

Ten per cent had only recently launched a website, and said it was too early to compare results to 2011.

But more strangely, a startling 28 per cent of retailers answered that they didn’t have a website at all. Considering the very same retailers responded that online competition was the second biggest threat to their business, it seems odd that they would decide not to have one of their own.

There may be a lot of debate as to how successful Windows 8 will ultimately prove, but the new operating system from Microsoft certainly made an impact on retailers in 2012, winning 30 per cent of the vote for highlight of the year.

The runner up was some way behind Windows 8 and rather less specific – tablets at 14 per cent of the vote.

Laptops, notebooks and netbooks were the clear winner for this question, with 39 per cent of the vote. It seems smaller really is better.

Tablets were second best at 14 per cent, desktops still hanging on at 13 per cent, with other sectors lagging behind, from peripherals at nine per cent, to components at five per cent and accessories at two per cent.

Software, at four per cent, is likely to decrease next year as more and more content becomes download-only, unless retailers and software vendors work together to bundle items and make them attractive to consumers.

The state of the economy is what’s weighing down on retailers the most, with 37 per cent of respondents claiming it as the biggest problem facing retail at the moment. Hardly a surprise really, given the ups and many downs of 2012. But is it all or part of the problem?

Online competition had the finger of blame pointed at it too, with 34 per cent of the vote. The threat of online is nothing new, but with the increased cost of overheads for bricks and mortar stores, it must seem to many like the online bunch have it easier.

Interestingly, almost all the retailers that PCR got in touch with offered repairs and upgrades. The two that didn’t do repairs and upgrades, did offer reseller services. In other words, all the surveyed retailers had decided that offering pure retail products to consumers wasn’t enough.

Seventy-eight per cent of retailers also have at least a toe in the reseller end of the IT pool.

The largest portion – 53 per cent – said that B2B business provided them with between one and 25 per cent of their annual takings. While that’s not necessarily a huge amount it will still make a significant impact on their business. Furthermore, it shows that most retailers are also resellers.

At least half of retailers are expecting good things out of 2013, with 54 per cent saying that they are confident about business this year.

Not everyone was on optimistic side of course. Twenty per cent had fallen prey to pessimism, citing a clear ‘no’.

Windows 8 once again makes a strong appearance in the survey, with 31 per cent of retailers saying that they were most looking forward to new Windows 8 devices in 2013, from tablets through to desktops.

Eleven per cent couldn’t find a single product or sector and went for ‘nothing at the moment’.

The retailers in PCR’s survey decided (41 per cent of them, at least), that mobile devices further converging with PCs would be the biggest trend to hit retail in 2013.

Twenty-seven per cent were fixed on the economy, whereas the ever-beloved/hated Cloud was in third place at eleven per cent.

The question of course is what ‘mobile devices further converging with PCs’ actually means for retailers. If tablets and so on are essentially becoming fully fledged computers (or if people are leaving desktops and laptops behind even if they’re not), does that put more people in the local PC shop, or less?

We’ll have to wait for next year’s survey to find out…

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