Consumers rush to equip homes with technology during COVID-19 pandemic

As more businesses close their offices and send staff to work from home, technology companies are struggling to keep with demand for equipment.

“It has been bonkers,” says Jeremy Unger, managing partner at Rogue Focus Inc., a boutique agency in Edmonton that specializes in IT support and technology design for business.

An employee at an Edmonton computer store carries a customer’s new purchase Tuesday. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

“Webcams, laptops. People who didn’t have a great home computer are buying desktops as much as they can right now,” Unger said.

“Generally, they need access to business files, they need access to their business phones and they need access to each other.”

Customers lined up outside the Best Buy store in south Edmonton were waiting more than 30 minutes, as an employee announced numbers through a loudspeaker.

An employee at an Edmonton Best Buy store calls out numbers to customers who are waiting in line outside. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

“They have a limited number of people who are allowed in the store,” said customer Dylan Kernaghan, who was waiting in line. “They are making you draw a number and wait your turn. They’re not accepting cash, as well.”

Karen Speirs, senior manager of external communications at Best Buy, said the chain has seen customer demand jump for items that customers need to work from home.

Dylan Kernaghan waits outside the Best Buy Thursday to buy a video game to play while isolated in his home. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

Other computer stores are also experiencing a higher than usual demand. Mackenzie Ponech, manager of Memory Express, a south-side computer supply store, compared the rush to Black Friday.

Unger believes that school closures have also heightened the demand.

A customer wearing a mask takes a number to get into Best Buy. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

“With all of the schools moving toward Google Classroom, you may have two or three or four kids at home that all need to do homework at the same time, and maybe households need to stock up on a few extra workstations,” he said.  

According to Unger, there could be a supply gap in a few months if manufacturers in southeast Asia are not able to keep up with the demand.

An Edmonton shopper leaves a Best Buy carrying several laptop computers. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

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