Business-to-business channel sales—revenue through distributors and commercial resellers—increased for the third year in a row, ending 2013 up nearly 6 percent at $61.7 billion, according to new data from research firm NPD Group.
Sales gains accelerated in the second half of the year and peaked in fourth quarter with a 6.9 percent year-over-year increase—the fastest growth since the end of the recession.
The top five categories—computers and servers, networking and communication, software, consumables and storage hardware—accounted for 74 percent of sales, essentially unchanged over the last four years.
Four of the five categories grew by more than 6 percent, and every one of those improved sequentially from 2012’s growth rate. Outside the largest product categories, sales revenue was up 5.2 percent, a significant jump from 2012.
"B2B channel sales rebounded in 2013 after a weaker 2012 where we saw less than 1 percent growth," Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, said in a statement. "The belief that IT hardware is a declining business was dispelled as most of the significant hardware segments had positive sales results. The increasing demands for cloud and infrastructure services continue to positively impact distribution channels and should create increased hardware and software sales opportunities in the future."
The report revealed storage hardware sales have been the fastest-growing large segment in B2B channel sales since 2010, increasing 29 percent since then with a 12 percent increase in revenue in 2013.
NetApp, IBM, EMC, Hewlett-Packard and Seagate were the five largest vendors, with EMC and NetApp each seeing double-digit revenue growth.
Sales were propelled by strong growth in solid-state drives (SSD) and network-attached storage (NAS). SSD revenue increased 83 percent while units soared 95 percent.
Meanwhile, NAS revenue was up 33 percent from 2012, and hard drives were the largest segment, with more than $2.5 billion in sales in 2013 and 14.9 million units sold.
Server sales declined 9 percent in units and fell below $1 billion in annual revenue for the first time in more than four years.
Preconfigured desktop and notebook unit sales increased 9 percent and 23 percent, while build-to-order computers increased 19 percent to nearly 3 million units.
HP unit sales were flat on a year-over-year basis, while Lenovo saw unit volumes jump 15 percent and the rest of the market, propelled by strong Chromebook sales, had an almost 50 percent increase in unit sales.