KUALA LUMPUR – The sales of laptops, tablets and other gadgets have soared in Malaysia, with some retailers and buyers complaining of a shortage as more people work from home and attend virtual classes.
“We had seen strong growth in demand for consumer electronics during the second movement control order (MCO) as Malaysians were preparing to work and study remotely,” Mr Ian Ho, regional managing director of e-commerce platform Shopee, told The Straits Times.
Popular products include laptops, smartphones, tablets, network components, keyboards, printers and audio systems, which saw over 550,000 units sold in five days from Jan 11 to Jan 15 on Shopee.
“This marks a growth of 4½ times compared with the period when the first MCO was announced,” he said.
The second major lockdown, referred to as MCO 2.0, came into effect on Jan 13. The first nationwide lockdown was imposed between March and June last year.
Another shopping platform, Lazada Malaysia, also saw a surge in sales.
“Compared with pre-MCO, sales for electronic devices, tech accessories and home appliances have all more than doubled on Lazada Malaysia,” said senior vice-president of category management Stephy Lim.
Chairman of the National Tech Association of Malaysia (Pikom) Danny Lee told ST: “Laptops and tablets, along with high-speed Internet services, have been in demand since the work-from-home (WFH) ruling and online learning started last year. Some popular models for laptops, tablets and PCs are in high demand and as a result, there could be delays in obtaining stock.”
Madam Shu-Jen Tan, 37, who owns an IT shop in southern Johor state, said: “We first felt the pinch in June last year when we had a waiting list of 12 university students and some were on the verge of tears in search of a new laptop of their liking.”
According to Madam Tan, there is a shortage of laptops, printers, printer consumables, desktops, display monitors, webcams, graphic cards, and computer memory (RAM).
“We sold a total of only eight laptops from June until today. In addition, much of my time is wasted responding to numerous stock inquiries every day and some even get mad, thinking we are refusing their business.”
Freelancer Josephine Mendoza, 42, had planned to buy a Dell computer for her son last month, but was told it would take more than two months to arrive.
“My boy’s 15-year-old desktop died, so I had no choice but to get a new replacement. But I was told it would take nine weeks to deliver, which is way too long,” she said.
Unscrupulous vendors have also raised prices to earn a hefty profit, and are forcing dealers such as Madam Tan to purchase in bundles.
For example, a Dell laptop with a retail price tag of RM1,599 (S$520) is being sold at RM2,630 because it comes with a printer and ink cartridges, said Madam Tan.
Pikom, which represents 249 retailers and 113 distributors, said it is also seeing a high demand for second-hand devices equipped with Internet capability and basic tools for online learning.
The association expects this trend to continue “as WFH and online learning will be part of the new normal”, said Mr Lee.
Although schools in the country are starting to reopen in stages from this month, the pandemic remains unpredictable and the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out is only expected to be completed by the year-end for people above 18 years of age.
In addition, more people are getting used to working remotely during the pandemic.
“Over the past two weeks, there is a surge of demand from people in the workforce. And most companies are still hunting for more hardware. And yet, we do not see any increase in terms of availability. Instead, laptop prices seem to have increased by a good 10 per cent,” said Madam Tan.