Weak PC Performance Apparent Below the Surface

The tough start to the year experienced by PC retailers in the U.S. has likely continued in the second. IDC estimate North American sales dropped on a year earlier in the first quarter. Panjiva data indicates shipments fell 0.7% in April and may have dropped 18.3% in May based on seaborne data. Furthermore, the value per unit of laptops fell 0.7% – the first drop since August 2016.

The only notable brightspot was all-in-one systems, which grew 6.6% in April possibly reflecting some success for systems like Microsoft’s Surface. The business segment also likely took a step backwards with serverimports having dropped 4.4%.


Data through August based on imports via all routes, lower chart shows total units through April, seaborne shipments only for May Source: Panjiva 

Acer may have passed its best, with a 38.9% drop in units imported by sea on a year earlier in May bringing its quarterly average to just 6.6% higher than a year before. Not all manufacturers are suffering however. Seaborne laptop imports associated with Dell climbed to their highest since May 2016 after climbing 12.6%. That left the quarterly rolling total 24.9% higher than a year prior. Among the original design manufacturers (ODMs) Compal has performed the best with shipments rising 102% on a year earlier in the past three months. 


Chart shows imports of laptop, all-in-one, stand-alone and servers qualified by company name. Values shown on a three-month rolling basis Source: Panjiva 

Compal’s success partly reflects output from its Chinese factories, where it has outperformed the average. Chinese exports of laptops fell 0.5% on a year earlier in April, though as was the case in the U.S. other models – particularly stand-alones – did better. As a result total PC exports actually increased 4.8% in the past three months. Compal’s Chinese factories’exports have climbed 27.3% in the three months to April 30, leading Inventec’s 24.4% growth. 


Chart segments Chinese computer exports by system type Source: Panjiva



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