Sales of large-format displays (LFDs) were already being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic before a dramatic drop in early Q2 2020, according to the latest data published by CONTEXT, the IT market intelligence company. This decline reflected the effects of lockdown measures as these devices are heavily used in public settings. On the positive side, digital signage has the potential to support the safety-conscious ‘new normal’ in a range of spaces. If indications that the pandemic is now being brought under control are accurate, and if lockdowns can be released safely, it is reasonable to hope that the category will recover with renewed confidence in its ability to make a difference to business and wider society.
After a strong 2019, where sales growth was in double figures, there was significant slowdown in LFD sales over Q1 2020 with a total decline -1% year-on-year. This was due not only to the spread of Covid-19 in Europe but also to factory closures in Asia during the early days of the pandemic. That said, there was one sub-category which continued to do well in Q1: sales of interactive models, which are used for office collaboration and classroom teaching, were up by +14%. However, this too ended in early Q2 as widespread lockdowns across Western Europe (WE) led to a dramatic decline across the entire sector.
Total sales of LFDs designed for digital signage, public information or collaboration declined by 46% year-on-year in the first five weeks of Q2 2020, affecting all vendors and almost every country in WE. It will take time for these losses to be recovered. Large-scale events have been postponed and demand for LFDs for indoor applications has fallen – we need desktop monitors, not boardroom screens, for school students and office workers now based at home. Transport, hospitality, and bricks-and-mortar retail – all important verticals for LFDs – have suffered. Fewer commuting office workers means a smaller audience on transport networks. Moreover, the future of the communal touchscreen is in question: except in a few specialist applications, convenience will not survive anxiety about hygiene and shared surfaces. It will be interesting to follow how vendors adapt and rise to the challenge of creating alternatives to touchscreens.
"Despite the difficult environment, there are opportunities for the LFD industry as lockdowns gradually ease, societies begin to reopen, and the world finds out what the new normal will be", said Dominika Koncewicz, Senior Market Analyst for Displays at CONTEXT. "Digital signage can help public spaces adapt to the need for social distancing, thanks to its ability to convey clear messages at the same time as offering the options of personalisation and adaptability. Even where strict lockdowns remain, it can reach consumers in outdoor spaces used for exercise and support online sales while shops are still closed. As LFDs are set to help us reintroduce some of our day-to-day activities whilst enabling us to keep a safe distance, the sector has a good chance of making a full recovery – especially if current opportunities to innovate and contribute are fully realised."