Despite a GDP growth rate of just 0.6 per cent in Q2 2013, the economic data published by the Office for National Statistics came as a breath of fresh air, finally appearing to show signs of stability in the UK economy.
Doom and gloom in the media about government spending cuts, poor consumer confidence, problems in the eurozone and fears of a triple-dip recession all flew out the window as the pace of economic growth doubled, in comparison to the quarter before.
As the economy gathered pace, the IT market in the UK also picked up, with sales volumes up 17.2 per cent for the first half of 2013 and 10.7 per cent in Q2 2013 in comparison to the same time last year.
In value terms, sales were generally less positive, however, with the markets up only 0.4 per cent in the first half of 2013 and 0.9 per cent for Q2 2013 alone.
The B2B channel fared much better than the B2C side of the market, with sales volumes growing 36.9 per cent in the first half of 2013 and 25.6 per cent in Q2 2013, in comparison to the respective time periods in 2012. In value terms, the B2B channel grew 1.5 per cent in Q2 2013 from the year-ago quarter.
B2C has been heavily dependent on media tablets, alongside ancillary products such as tablet keyboards, for growth. However, the B2B side of the market has been more balanced, as it were, with growth experienced across several product categories.
These included software, storage, networking, notebooks, and even media tablets - which have finally started to make inroads in the B2B side of the market as well.
The software, storage and PC areas continued to dominate the B2B channel in the first half of 2013, and accounted for more than 80 per cent of the total amount spent on IT through the B2B channel in the first half of this year.
Software sales were up 58.1 per cent in volume terms for the first half of 2013 when compared to the first half of last year. However, on the value side of things, the market was down 18.8 per cent year on year, and this had a significant impact on the fortunes of the channel as a whole.
Chart: Tentative growth seen in GB IT market - GfK's IT Fusion report
Copyright GfK 2013. All rights reserved.
Another category that has had a major effect on the market so far this year is storage. While sales volumes were up 5.7 per cent in comparison to the first half of 2012, sales in value terms declined 21.8 per cent year on year, again significantly affecting the overall performance of the B2B channel.
The PC side of the B2B market displayed generally positive results, with all the major form factors - such as desktops, notebooks and media tablets - seeing some year-on-year growth.
Media tablets, which have faced questions over their viability in a corporate environment due to challenges around compatibility and security encryption, were a key winner in the market in the first half of 2013. Media tablets comprised 5.7 per cent of sales through the B2B channel in value terms.
In the coming months, as more Windows 8-based devices enter the market, the barriers that held those devices back in the B2B channel in the past will fade away noticeably.
And as we wind up the second half of the year, and go beyond into 2014, Windows 8 devices will play an increasingly fundamental role in the B2B channel.
By next year, the Windows 8 device category could very well have become an integral part of the B2B IT market, as it has already done in the B2C channel.
Mehryar Hamid is senior account manager for IT research at GfK
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