Whether it’s a shiny new Apple Watch, box-fresh racing drone or an even thinner tablet, we Brits are always rushing to get our hands on the latest technology… aren’t we? Well, we’ve dug beneath the surface of tech spending and found all may not be as it seems…
Tech spending has dipped in the UK
We crunched our credit card data and analysed transactions with a value of more than £100 going back to 2014. We looked at high street and online transactions at 17 of the biggest tech retailers in the UK, including Apple, Sony, PC World, Maplin and Currys.
Initially, we discovered that different pockets of the country are embracing tech at various rates – and not necessarily the ones you would expect. Blackburn in Lancashire is first out of the gate, with the biggest growth in technology spending. Since 2014, the north-west town has seen an 8% increase in expenditure on tech products, more than any other town or city in the UK. Its northern neighbours Manchester and Hartlepool weren’t far behind, with rises of 6.7% and 6.5% respectively.
However in some parts of the UK, it’s a different story. More remote and sparsely populated areas have seen an increase, but it’s only a small one. Spending in Eilean Siar in the Outer Hebrides rose by 1.4%, while the Shetland Islands and Orkney Islands both saw a 1.5% climb. Alongside them in the bottom 20 locations for tech spending were, surprisingly, nine London boroughs, including Camden (2.3%), Kensington and Chelsea (2.3%) and Westminster (1.9%).
Look at the UK as a whole and you may be surprised to find that as a nation, we’re actually spending less on technology year-on-year. Since 2014, the UK’s tech spend has dropped by 8.3%, which suggests a sustained downward trend rather than a mere temporary blip.
Why are we spending less on tech?
Apple alone has seen an 11% reduction in credit card transactions since 2014, which is hard to believe with eager fans queuing for two weeks to get their hands on the latest iPhone. Apple may still dominate the market, but it does raise the question; is this slump in tech spending due to the fact that the products are getting better? Are companies actually playing a part in this sales decline by producing increasingly high-quality devices?
These days, iPhones and iPads are built to last. In fact, according to Apple’s website, if you’re a first-time owner of these iOS devices, they should survive three years of use. For OS X devices like MacBooks, it rises to four years.
The data we’ve examined suggests that perhaps technology is now so much more reliable that there’s no need to invest in it as often as we used to. Now that we’re hanging onto devices for longer, it’s clear that the upgrade cycle has increased and device lifetimes are lengthening. It’s not just Apple either. High street sales across leading merchants – including Sony, Bose, Currys and Dixons – follow the same pattern, with in-store sales having dipped by 14.8%.
That being said, online transactions are on the up, increasing by 3.91% since 2014. Shopping online is still evolving, with PayPal transactions growing by a whopping 26%. This seems to suggest that when we do spend on tech, we’re trading the high street experience for a digital one.
As a consumer, the great news to take from these findings is that the products we invest in are lasting longer than they used to. We don’t have to wait for a new smartphone to appear under the tree every Christmas and we can pass down perfectly functional devices to a friend or family member when we decide we want a brand spanking new one.
So unless the next wave of products totally transform the world of tech – starting with October’s launch of the iPhone 8 and X – it’s likely this trend will continue as we embrace the devices we own and love, safe in the knowledge we won’t have to keep forking out for a new model. It seems tech designers and manufacturers are going to have to come up with ever more amazing advances to make sure we keep coming back for more.