Tech

Webcams, PCs, graphics cards, printers: Corona is throwing up prices

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Home office instead of the office, online shopping instead of shopping, video chat with friends instead of going to the pub: the Corona crisis has turned many habits in Germany upside down. When it comes to retail prices, too, new rules suddenly apply, as several market surveys show. Consumers should be prepared for this.

“Corona is also turning the world upside down when it comes to prices,” observes retail expert Eva Stüber from the Cologne Institute for Retail Research (IFH). For many products such as laptops or bicycles, the decisive factor for the price development is suddenly less competition than the availability of goods. “Old rules – such as the fact that the prices of new electronic devices slide after a few months – suddenly no longer apply,” she says.

Their assessment is supported by two market studies that were recently published. A study by the consumer portal Testberichte.de, which evaluated the price development in more than 1000 product categories for the period from May 2019 to February 2021, showed that the Corona crisis led to strong price increases for a whole range of products. The price of webcams, for example, has almost doubled since May 2020. First a noticeable shortage of supply due to the first lockdown in China had an impact – and then the growing demand due to the home office boom in Germany and logistics problems.

According to the Testberichte.de study, the golden rule that the prices of televisions, laptops or printers slide a few months after their market launch was not only overridden in the Corona year 2020. Those who waited to buy in order to save money could even experience a nasty surprise. The prices for PCs have risen by 79 percent, those for printers by 19 percent, watched the consumer portal.

According to the study, the changed living conditions in the pandemic – such as more frequent home-cooking or the closure of fitness studios – also made themselves felt in other product categories. According to the study, kitchen appliances increased in price by 25.4 percent, dishwashers by a good 20 percent and cross trainers by almost 18 percent. Medical thermometers and hair clippers also became significantly more expensive in the pandemic.

One fell very similarly Study by the consumer forum mydealz for which the prices of 550 randomly selected products were compared. More than half of them became more expensive between February 15, 2020 and February 15, 2021. “The corona pandemic has thrown the markets off balance,” says company founder Fabian Spielberger. Not only televisions and printers have become more expensive, but also cutlery, dishes and glasses as well as films and video games. This is probably due to the fact that many consumers have spent more time at home.

Corona triggered a kind of chain reaction, says Spielberger. Production restrictions, logistics problems, bottlenecks in chip production and a sudden surge in demand for everything to do with home office, among other things, would have led to previously unknown price increases. “In some cases, goods were sold at prices above the recommended retail price.”

For the retail expert Stüber it is clear: “The strategy of standing out from the competition primarily through price has been undermined to some extent by the pandemic. At the moment, those who have the supply chain under control and can actually deliver – also to the fullest win Price.” This is particularly evident in the electronics market, where the short product cycles usually lead to a rapid drop in prices.

But the market watcher Spielberger sees light for consumers at the end of the tunnel. A certain normalization can already be observed in some product groups. The prices for webcams have recently dropped significantly again, even if they are not yet back at the pre-crisis level.

“Demand is slowly falling, which calms prices down,” he said. And improvement is also foreseeable when it comes to logistics. He is convinced that the end of the soaring prices is in sight for many products. “In the next few months, things should slowly relax again.”