Stephanie Hurd

By: Stephanie Hurd on August 25th, 2020

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Laptop Shortages And Price Increases

Devices | Purchasing

Shopping for a laptop back in March was the virtual equivalent of battling other shoppers for the last Cabbage Patch Kid doll on Black Friday in the 80s.  

Laptop inventory was low to nonexistent, and if you did find one, you couldn’t be too picky about specs. You only had one choice for which you likely paid more than you anticipated. 

innovative's response

Thanks to our relationship with suppliers, re-prioritizing of projects, and providing some refurbished rental computers until stock was available, none of our customers had to do without anything they really needed, and stock slowly replenished over the Summer. 

Vendor Relationships

As an HP partner, we’re often asked why don’t we carry Dell or other popular brands. Most Windows computers are assembled with the same parts and are pretty much the same from brand to brand. Both Dell and HP are quality computers that fit similar needs.

We do offer other products like Microsoft tablets, and Panasonic Toughbooks when HP can't fit the customer needs. But for the standard office computer, we prefer HPs because of our excellent vendor relationship. Our techs can support any brand of technology. But our vendor relationship with HP means we have a direct line on purchasing limited stock items, replacement parts, and expedited warranty claims.

The pandemic magnified the value of this relationship. We had access to more inventory than other vendors. We also received early warnings of future price increases and possible shortages that we passed along to our customers so they could time purchasing decisions accordingly.

Re-Prioritizing Projects

Back in March, we were scheduling projects into May and June. Which means we had computers ordered that weren’t needed immediately. So, when customers transitioned to work from home, suddenly needing mass quantities of laptops, we worked with everyone to swap computers around, and make sure customers with the most immediate needs had sufficient equipment.

Like Cher in Clueless, we had to “haul ass to the kitchen, redistribute the food, squish in extra place settings,” and by the end of the day, it all worked out.

Refurbished Rental Computers

Refurbished computers are usually not cost-effective for our customers. But with no other options available, we refurbished some older laptops and offered them as rentals to customers that needed them for employees to work from home temporarily.

The life-cycle of a new computer is between three and five years. Refurbished ones become obsolete even sooner, so this is certainly not a long-term strategy. But it worked well to get employees the tools they needed until stock was replenished.

Price Increases and Second Wave of Laptop Shortages

As vacations wrap up and we return to school and work from home, we’re seeing indications of a second wave of computer shortages and price increases.  

This time around, vendors are increasing prices first to proactively decrease demand. Increased demand hit suddenly in March, leaving vendors unprepared.

This time, we know what’s coming. We’re seeing parents set up their virtual learning environments and adopt flexible work schedules to accommodate their kids’ virtual learning schedules. This leads to another surge in demand, and vendors are responding accordingly.

The Good News

We likely won’t see as drastic of a shortage as we experienced in the Spring, because the increased demand is more predictable this time.

The Bad News

You will pay a premium for limited stock until manufacturers can ramp up production to meet the increased demand.

What to Do

If you’re planning to replace computers this Fall or Winter, you might want to consider bumping up your timeline and purchase the equipment now.  

Innovative customers with an open quote in front of you will hear from us to talk through the timeline and the possibility of impending price increases and inventory shortages. 

We can’t predict how long shortages and price increases could last. But we do know that suppliers were well-stocked heading into the March shortages, and while inventory has recovered over the Summer, there’s no surplus of IT equipment right now.

If you’re ramping up for your own second wave of work from home as your employees balance work and their kids’ virtual learning schedules, plan for computer purchases now. If you already planned for computer purchases this year, purchase them now, or at least reach out to your vendors to monitor prices and inventory closely, so you’re not stuck without necessary equipment this year. 

Not sure when your computers are due for replacement? Use this free Business Technology Inventory and Assessment tool to create your life-cycle management plan.  

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