Welcome to 2021. One might argue the New Year couldn’t have come soon enough. But, once again, January starts with a familiar scene. Christmas trees have left most living rooms while wrapping paper and empty gift boxes fill bins waiting on cold and empty streets for collection.
Noting a couple of headlines from the web over the holidays, one thing is clear: consumers are still buying and encouraged to buy. Official figures aren’t yet in but Covid-19 induced lockdowns are expected to drive a new record for digital sales worldwide of US$ 940 billion (EUR 747 billion). If so, that means sales are up 30% year-on-year with global shipping exceeding capacity by a good 5%.
Presents are getting more extravagant and expensive, too. Dolls, toy cars and teddy bears are so 1999… We are reminded of the ‘most coveted gadgets’, ‘best tech gifts’ and ‘coolest electronics you didn’t know existed before’. Top 10 lists feature headphones, tablets, laptops, smart watches, game consoles and virtual reality headsets. Oh, and let’s not forget about smart speakers. After all, our homes are slowly becoming smart hubs. Everything is connected.
Don’t get me wrong: I love getting (and giving) gifts – the more personal, the better. But I can’t be the only one who gets a little nostalgic in December. To me, it’s all about spending time with your family and friends with a glass of good wine and a nice home-cooked meal. Given our new reality (thank you very much, coronavirus!), seeing even one of them for an hour or so was the greatest gift after our estranged 2020.
I was surprised to see that when you search for electronics gifts on Google, you get some interesting suggestions. Starting with the obvious ‘for him’, ‘for her’, ‘for birthday’, ‘under US$ 50’ returns, you also get ‘for dad/dad/sister…’, ‘for married couples’, ‘girlfriend gift guide’, ‘best kitchen items’, ‘for sports’ and even ‘for Diwali’ (India’s festival of lights). There seems to be a category for everyone and every occasion.
Technology can be a wonderful thing – at the right place, at the right time. For Christmas, Scotland’s capital Edinburgh organised a show with drones flying over the hills in formation (Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer). While the mayor of Amsterdam banned traditional fireworks in favour of a virtual, projected fireworks display on New Year’s Eve.
Glancing at Statista figures, revenue in the consumer electronics market shows no signs of slowing. Global revenue totalled US$ 384 million last year, up notably from US$ 326 million in 2019. This year, total revenue is expected to hit US$ 416 million, growing to US$ 487 million by 2025.
At the same time, the Global E-waste Monitor 2020 reports that the volume of e-scrap is rising steadily. 2019 set a record with 53.6 million tonnes (7.3kg per capita) generated worldwide. This is up more than nine million tonnes in five years. By 2030, the figure is expected to exceed 74 million tonnes, twice as much as in 2014.
And yet the global recycling rate for e-scrap is less impressive, hovering around 17%. Africa manages less than 1%, Asia recycles 11.7%, the Americas are a little behind with 9.5%, and Oceania manages 8.8%. Europe scores the highest with 42%. The UN hopes to push countries to meet an ambitious target of 30% by 2023 but this will require hard work across the entire industry.
This is something to keep in mind when browsing for your next gift, I think.
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