The European IT channel ended an extraordinary year on a high, with distribution sales hitting a record €26,3-billion and year-on-year growth of 10,2% for Q4, according to market research group Context.

The figures are in keeping with a year in which the channel outperformed expectations every quarter, despite unprecedented supply chain challenges and the closure of many offices for much of 2020.

Full-year sales were €83,3-billion, and growth stood at 7,2%, versus figures of €77,8-billion and 3,6% in 2019.

Despite the fall in demand in many enterprise IT categories, the push for digital transformation and increased demand from home workers and students helped to propel most countries to impressive annual sales growth. These were led by Poland (30%), the Czech Republic (15%), Spain (13%) and Italy (11%), with only France (-2%) Austria (-5%) and Slovakia (-7%) recording negative growth for the year. Mobile PCs played a huge role in this growth, particularly notebooks, where volumes grew 37% year-on-year in European distribution and revenues grew 31%.

There was strong business demand from the education sector for tablets and laptops, and from the healthcare sector, while commercial organisations continued to invest to support remote working. In the consumer space, both traditional and gaming laptops were popular as buyers looked to support work and play during lockdowns.

Small and medium resellers (SMRs) continued to dominate the channel with a market share little changed from 2019 on 36,5%. Corporate resellers lost 2% of their share over the period, accounting for 26,4% of the market in 2020, while retail chain players saw their share increase by almost one percentage point to 23,3%.

E-tail business outlets remained relatively unchanged on 3% while the e-tail consumer channel increased its share by 1,6% to reach 10,7%.

Despite relatively disappointing performance across the year, there was good news for corporate resellers at the end of 2020 thanks to some big software and warranty deals which drove an increase in value sales and a bounce back in fortunes.

“The IT channel in Europe has ended 2020 by once again outperforming expectations – we have not seen double-digit growth in a quarter in recent years. With the current level of demand for digital products, there’s more to come in 2021. We expect growth to restart in the early part of January,” says Context global MD, Adam Simon. “Rather than start the year with an empty pipeline after the strong finish to 2020, we’ll see the opposite. There’s still huge demand that can’t be satisfied due in part to supply shortages and this will continue to drive channel sales growth.”

The company predicts that 2021 will come close to being the first ever €100-billion revenue year for the IT channel in Europe.