We ask the PCR Retail Advisory Board if there will always be a demand for both traditional computers and tablets in the classroom?

What do schools want from retailers?

The PCR Retail Advisory Board reveals how the back to school market is changing and what schools, parents and pupils are buying.

Will there always be a demand for both traditional computers and tablets in the classroom?

TIM LEROY, Head of Marketing, Novatech
“Over 30 per cent of our sales are direct to schools so the ‘back to school’ market is inconsequential when compared to the large institutional summer refreshes. So many schools are now supplying laptops or tablets – either free to their students or via a ‘One To One’ scheme – that it’s becoming increasingly rare for parents to have to provide a laptop for school. So we see no spike in sales to individuals in September. Desktop PCs are still by far the most common institutional purchases.”

CRAIG HUME, Director, Utopia Computer
“Utopia sees a good increase in sales during the back to school period. Laptops are still a firm favourite with our customers, but we now offer Apple tablets in-store as demand for these products with school kids is also high. We also offer discounts to parents and teachers.

Upselling is very effective during this period, as a high percentage of customers are on the lookout for office software, security software, laptop bags and external storage. We find simple percentage discounts seem to work best, for example 50 per cent off all security software when bundled with a new laptop/desktop/tablet.”

IAIN SHAW, Divisional Director, Brigantia
“Brigantia predicts that over the next few years there will continue to be a demand for laptops and desktops [in schools], although we also feel that there will be a massive growth in demand for other networked devices.

Schools will move toward both local and full cloud solutions, depending on the quality of broadband infrastructure that is available. The educational experience of the next generation of school students will only be limited by a failure of broadband providers, such as BT, to upgrade their entire network.

We should consider superfast broadband alongside power, heat and water as being fundamental requirements for this century and any one of these not being there is a serious infrastructure failure that requires government intervention.”

LORELEI GIBB, Marketing Director, Dolphin Computer Upgrades
“We don’t sell directly to educational establishments but have definitely noticed an increased urgency required for repairing students’ computers and laptops. Whereas, a few years back a parent would be in no hurry getting a machine fixed, as it was ‘just used by the kids’.

These days computers appear to have become as important to children and young adults as they are to businesses. So the turnaround rate in repairs and new machines has had to speed up considerably.”

NAEEM ADAM, Tech Buyer, The Co-op Group
“In the past, back to school has always been laptop-heavy with less focus on desktop PCs. We all thought desktop PCs would be replaced by all-in-ones – and while sales were encouraging for a while, it’s definitely not been the high- flying category that everyone expected.

Nowadays, customers look past laptops to tablets, and then back to laptops, because some consumers aren’t ready to completely switch to tablets if they only have enough money for one device. Most customers essentially want the slimmest, lightest, nicest looking device plus portability, with the option of using it to be productive as well as for browsing the internet.

However, if it’s a question of tablet versus laptop, then I’m sure Microsoft has a few tricks up its sleeve next quarter to get some growth back, away from Chromebook and Android.”

ANDY TRISH, Director at NCI Technologies and CompTIA member
“The school landscape is an ever changing beast. Gone are the days schools accept secondhand PCs to teach their children with – nowadays parents who work in business are jealous of what their children have access to in schools.

With 3D printers getting better every day and tools to teach programming available, it’s the reseller’s job to keep schools informed of what they can use to improve the learning environment.

A mix of tools available to teach gives students a far better advantage in future life rather than being restricted to one learning resource. Don’t be fooled by large vendors’ marketing strategies into thinking there is little choice but to follow them – schools themselves decide their purchasing.”

PCR RETAIL ADVISORY BOARD – PCR asks its Retail Advisory Panel – formed of buyers and experts – about the biggest industry trends and issues each month. To join, email dominic.sacco@intentmedia.co.uk

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