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UK channel firms rabbit-punch recession in Q4: Sales are HUGE

Biggest tech territory in Europe...casts shadow over Germany and France

Blighty is again the largest tech sales territory in the European channels* after distributors reported a near double-digit growth spurt in Q4, fuelled by mobility, software and er... desktops.

Numbers are in from Context, which tracks all major wholesalers' sales-out data - the kit that customers are actually buying - showing that the local supply chain closed off 2013 on a high.

Total revenues transacted were up 8.8 per cent to £2.86bn, with roughly 20 per cent of that business relating to mobile computing - tabs and notebooks. Mobility kit was up 17.2 per cent year-on-year to £546m.

And unsurprisingly slabs hogged most of the growth, up 41 per cent on a year ago to account for 53 per cent of all sales in this category. Notebook growth was more modest at six per cent.

There is a lot of life left in software and licensing, Context stats reveal, with distributors turning over £427m worth of wares in the quarter, up 21 per cent on the same period in 2012. Virtualisation led the sales hike, up 26 per cent, but the XP issue boosted operating systems shipments too.

Desktops, the third growth pillar in Q4, provided a welcome fillip to channel sales, rising 26 per cent from the ashes of a once dominant sector to reach £90m. And again it was ending support from Microsoft that pushed up sales.

"It was the XP refresh," Context CEO Jeremy Davies told us, "but also the fact that businesses deferred purchasing for a long period and are unable to hold off any more".

As of last autumn, 500 million PCs worldwide continued to run on XP, although that figure will have fallen in the interim. No analyst has accurate numbers for the current installed base in the UK.

Some of this OS replacement activity in the commercial sector may have fed through to PC components as this sector was up 18 per cent to £96m, led by processors, memory and graphics cards.

But it wasn't all plain sailing for systems distributors in Q4 as server revenues crashed 9.1 per cent to £71m, reflecting the general trend globally in a market that IBM last week waved goodbye to.

Davies reckons the cloud – some customers are moving to Infrastructure-as-a-Service and buying fewer systems – and the growing trend of ODMs custom-building systems in Taiwan and selling them direct to punters were key factors in the decline.

Networking systems had been another sector on a downward spiral in recent times, but here, Q4 saw something of a rebound, up 10 per cent to £72m on the back of gains in routers and switches.

IT distributors continue to carve out a slice of the telecoms kit market, with growth up six per cent in total to £158m driven by smartphones sales, up 11 per cent to £138m.

Disk storage continues to be a major contributor to the channel as sales edged up 8.2 per cent to £135m. Solid state drives grew 58 per cent to £25m and disk arrays climbed 23 per cent to £37m but the sector's loser was HDD, down three per cent to £65m.

Revenues in printer hardware grew 14 per cent in the quarter to £78m, reversing the fortunes of the space that were in decline due to people printing less, and businesses using print managed services.

The display biz was up four per cent to £112m, with gains across the board from LCDs, projectors bout mostly large formats, which jumped 76 per cent albeit off a smaller base to £10m.

Warranties and services - those that come attached to a SKU - saw modest growth of 2.4 per cent to £132m.

The German tech channel turned over £2.32bn in Q4 and France some £1.15bn in France, Context stats showed. ®

* Click here for more info on the channel.

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