Home office equipment sales boom
Working from home is the new working at the office, and home office equipment sales are booming locally and with overseas online retailers.
This has resulted in shortages for items such as web cameras, headsets, and printers. And it has become hard to estimate when some products will be available again as international supplies dry up. For many people, mandated home working has been part of daily life during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some businesses have welcomed it.
It has created a surge in demand for home office equipment, which has resulted in “out of stock” messages at major online retailers, and high demand at on-island retailers.
Joe Kemper, a salesman for technology store Red Laser, in Pembroke, said customers have snapped up headsets, laptops, desktops, monitors and monitor stands “and a lot of the small peripheral stuff”.
He added: “Printers — we can't even keep in stock. Even ink is hard to get right now.”
Many suppliers in the US are unable to give estimated dates when out-of-stock items will be available again.
“Web cameras are one of the very hot items that everybody is trying to get, and they keep pushing it back every week when we ask,” Mr Kemper said.
He has seen items selling online at three times the Bermuda retail price. He said: “It is pretty insane.”
Tim Smith, chief executive officer of AF Smith, in Pembroke, said there had been a dramatic decrease in sales in April and May, but with many people working from home an uptick in sales of laptops, printers, toner, paper, office desks and chairs helped offset some of the decrease in traditional office supplies.
Mr Smith said: “Covid-19 has been disruptive on many levels. Worldwide demand for certain products, like laptops, webcams and home printers went through the roof, and while our staff and vendors were phenomenal in responding to needs, we experienced delays in sourcing some products. Some vendors literally had to ration products for Bermuda.”
There has also been demand for cleaning and disinfecting products, and also for touch- and hands-free trash cans and printers.
During a virtual conference featuring leaders of Bermudian-based re/insurance business last week, Chris Bonard, chief executive officer of broker Ed Bermuda, said many people who had previously never heard of online platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Houseparty, were now using them.
“The medium in which we operate has changed overnight,” he said. “Covid-19 could be big bang moment and people are fast-forwarding on how they use technology now.”
Albert Benchimol, CEO of Axis Capital, was also part of the webinar hosted by the Bermuda Business Development Agency and Rims. He said the Covid-19 crisis had shown the insurance industry “the value of technology, the value of digital, and the ability to combine work from home with work from office”.
At Red Laser, the demand for home office equipment has been on a par with Christmas sales. The store's website has received more traffic than before.
Mr Kemper said people are getting used to the idea of working from home, but he is not sure if the trend will continue.
While Mr Smith said: “In the short term and perhaps medium term, more accommodations will be made so people can work from home. We don't, however, see this as a permanent landscape because productivity is lower at home, employees become less engaged and they feel less connected to the company's culture.
“With those issues evident, the company then has an employee retention issue which, over several years, the company risks depleting its funnel of talent.”
As for the return to office working, he added: “The workplace that people return to will have to be a very different place. Organisations will need to create a workplace where people feel safe with a sense of belonging.
“On-site temperature checks, visual cues on walls and floors to remind us of social-distancing, outdoor work areas, face masks, separation screens, and more technology to support videoconferencing will become the new workplace normal.”