PC shipments sink nearly 20%, steepest drop in more than 20 years

Demand for personal computers is falling at its fastest pace in decades after increased sales related to the pandemic were followed by a slowdown in consumer spending on electronics.

Global shipments in the third quarter fell 19.5 percent from a year earlier, the biggest drop in more than two decades, according to data from research firm Gartner. Inc.

PC makers shipped 68 million PCs in the latest quarter, up from 84.5 million units a year earlier.

“This quarter’s results could signal a historic slowdown for the PC market,” said Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa. “While supply chain disruptions have finally subsided, high inventories have now become a major issue given low PC demand in both the consumer and business markets.”

Back-to-school sales were weaker than expected despite promotions and price cuts aimed at boosting purchases, Ms. Kitagawa said. The global economic slowdown is also making businesses more cautious in their spending decisions.

The U.S. PC market fell 17.3 percent in the third quarter due to a drop in laptop sales, according to Gartner.

International Data Corp., another data provider, said global shipments fell 15 percent in the third quarter with a total of 74.3 million units shipped, although shipment volumes remain above pre-pandemic levels. The two research firms measure the data slightly differently.

The industry benefited during the pandemic from a boom in e-commerce sales as households and businesses bought computers to accommodate working from home and distance learning. But those big purchases are difficult for consumers to repeat so soon, especially as inflation curbs spending amid other macroeconomic conditions.

Computer manufacturers like HP Inc.

and Dell Technologies Inc.

have warned of a decline in consumer demand in recent months and the change is hitting supply chains.

On Thursday, chip maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

cut its revenue forecast for the most recent quarter, citing lower-than-expected demand for personal computers that use its chips. The company said it expects sales of $5.6 billion for the quarter just ended, about $1.1 billion less than it previously expected when it issued a subdued outlook in August.

Write to Kathryn Hardison at [email protected]

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