NPD: U.S. B2B Technology Sales See Positive First Quarter Momentum, Up 4%

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Hardware growth exceeded software, as sales continue to be driven by pandemic needs.

As many in the U.S. begin their return to ‘normal’ we are starting to see some of the pandemic-related sales momentum shift and anticipate that we are likely to see some growth shift from the hardware that was needed to outfit home offices, back to software for business operations.

The U.S. B2B technology channel generated nearly $24.1 billion in the first quarter of 2021, a 4% sales growth compared to the same period a year prior, according to The NPD Group’s B2B Distributor Track and Reseller Tracking services. This is also up 4% compared to Q1 2019. During the quarter, software sales, which make up 27% of industry sales, experienced 3% growth, while hardware dollar sales saw a 4% increase.

Sales trends that began during the onset of the pandemic are continuing into the first quarter of the 2021, as products that enable working and learning from home, including USB cameras (+320%) and notebooks* (+51%), saw strong growth over Q1 2020. While tablets also saw double-digit growth in Q1 (+18%) the category is beginning to slow from its peak 2020 growth.

“As many in the U.S. begin their return to ‘normal’ we are starting to see some of the pandemic-related sales momentum shift and anticipate that as businesses and schools begin opening we are likely to see some growth shift from the hardware that was needed to outfit home offices, back to software for business operations,” said Mike Crosby, Director and B2B Technology Industry Analyst, The NPD Group.

In Q1 software revenue growth was driven by cloud gains, up 44% vs. Q1 2020, as well as increases in enterprise resource management (+28%), and monitoring and management (+24%). Since the pandemic took hold and many employees were forced to work remote, security software has been a top priority. In Q1 security software saw a 6% year-over-year increase, trending ahead of the overall software segment. Top growth categories included security information and event management (SIEM) and gateway and firewall.

“Driven by digital transformation, cloud is delivering real value for businesses of all sizes. We are anticipating additional software investment related to communication, collaboration, and security for both remote and hybrid workforces, enabling agility as well as scalability,” noted Crosby.

*Includes BTO & Preconfigured Devices
Source: The NPD Group, U.S. B2B Distributor Track® and Reseller Tracking service, Jan.-March 2021 vs. Jan.-March 2020.

About The NPD Group, Inc.
NPD offers data, industry expertise, and prescriptive analytics to help our clients grow their businesses in a changing world. Over 2,000 companies worldwide rely on us to help them measure, predict, and improve performance across all channels, including brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, and B2B. We have services in 19 countries worldwide, with operations spanning the Americas, Europe, and APAC. Practice areas include apparel, appliances, automotive, beauty, books, B2B technology, consumer technology, e-commerce, fashion accessories, food consumption, foodservice, footwear, home, home improvement, juvenile products, media entertainment, mobile, office supplies, retail, sports, toys, and video games. For more information, visit npd.com. Follow us on Twitter: @npdgroup.

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