As the junior data associate for the Europe Printer Hardware category here at gap intelligence, I research how Western European e-commerce sites have been responding to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). Currently, gap intelligence tracks printer hardware and supplies pricing in Germany, the United Kingdom (UK), and France. Out of almost 40 resellers currently tracked within these countries, 75% of the sites have posted COVID-19-related announcements regarding shipping, delivery, and other policies. Now let’s dive into how the current situation has impacted resellers in these three countries and how they’ve responded to the crisis.
Germany has had the lowest rate of COVID-19 infections out of the three previously listed countries. The curve has been flattened and the number of new cases is declining each day. Currently, Germany is slowly opening up businesses and schools. Most of the resellers that we track in the country (including Amazon, Bechtle, and Insight), have announced that their businesses remain operational under strict safety and hygiene measures, along with allowing most employees to work remotely. Higher priority is given to personal care and medical supplies, therefore, shipment delays are expected for many products. On May 18th, Germany and France jointly announced that a €545 billion recovery fund will be injected to help Europe’s economy. This will likely help businesses relieve some financial stress.
The UK has experienced the highest rate of infection of the aforementioned countries, although it has passed the peak of the outbreak. The country was in lockdown since the end of March and is recently planning to ease restrictions in order to restart the economy.
Most e-commerce resellers in the UK remain operational. However, many resellers are experiencing stock shortages due to high demand for home office supplies. According to a Statista survey from 2018, only 4.4% of the population in UK typically worked from home, compared to Germany at 5%, and France at 6.6%. The UK had the lowest population that had work from home capability. Today’s sudden surge in demand for office supplies has affected stock availability for many items needed for employees to work from home.
In addition to the demand surge, the disruption of supply chain also contributed significantly to stock shortages. Printerbase, one of the largest printer hardware and supplies resellers in UK, announced that due to the closure of factories in China at the beginning of the year, manufacturers were already expecting to see product shortages in March and April.
The rate of COVID-19 infections in France was less than in the UK, although the country was still significantly impacted compared to Germany. In the past month, what has caught the public’s attention is that the e-commerce giant Amazon had to temporarily shut down six of its fulfillment centers in France. This was after a Nanterre court ruling on April 16, over concern for working conditions and the safety of warehouse staff.
The result of the shutdown has been reflected in our e-commerce data, where there has been a significant drop in e-commerce listings for printers in April from Amazon France. In May, Amazon is preparing to reopen with only 30% staff after settling a deal with French unions in coronavirus safety disputes. However, Amazon and other resellers had to prioritize essential goods, so this is still far from recovering to the normal level of operations.
Overall, most of Germany, UK, and France resellers have maintained some level of operation throughout the COVID-19 quarantine. Due to lockdowns and travel restrictions, a lot of the shipments continue to experience delays. Stores are paying more attention to safety measures with pick-up stations being arranged for less contact, and warehouses imposing strict hygiene measures. As the world’s economies slowly open up, workers in Europe still have many concerns about returning to work. The near-term demand for office supplies will likely remain high due to work from home measures.
As factories in China resume normal operations on an earlier timeline than the west, supply should continue gradual recovery. It is hopeful that there will be better stock availability on work from home equipment such as printers in the coming months. As in the US and China, countries in Europe are rethinking their current remote work policies in order to keep their businesses operational during the pandemic. Potential increases in market demand for home office supplies could continue as companies work to adapt to the changing business conditions.
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