Beat the curve on school technology purchasing
2020 has been a year like no other. In March alone, we saw tens of thousands of Chromebooks rush-ordered by districts needing take-home devices for their students. Many schools had only a matter of days to shift entire districts to online learning, while at the same time, manufacturing disruptions in China resulted in significant availability issues. These snags in the supply chain caused many vendors, and even some manufacturers (FireFly excluded), to all-but completely run out of Chromebooks.
The initial chaos has thankfully subsided (for the most part at least), but you may be left wondering how this early and unexpected need for student devices will affect the “normal” school technology purchasing season this summer. Our FireFly Technology Experts took a look at the market and came up with some advice on how to approach your summer tech purchases. Here’s why we’re predicting that ordering your devices now will be your best bet this year:
FireFly 2020 Summer Outlook
Availability Gaps– Early demand has reduced the number of devices FireFly and other vendors have been able to stock-up on heading into the summer. Intermittent gaps in the availability of brand new models are fairly common in most years, however when new models are in short supply, you typically have other options such as buying a previous year’s model or buying from a partner like FireFly who has our own private warehouse.
This year, those other options may not be as possible and any gaps in the availability of new models will be felt much more strongly. HP and Lenovo are aware of the increased demand and have ramped up the production of Chromebooks and other student devices. Still, some manufacturers are predicting that a few of the most popular low-cost models will only be readily available either early in the year (i.e. right about now) or towards the latter half of summer.
For those planning on ordering 1,000+ Chromebooks this year, tell us right away! Our Account Managers at FireFly have great relationships with our manufacturers, and as long as we can let them know about the details of your order early, they may be able to allocate (i.e. set aside) inventory for your order. That’s even more reason to get started sooner this year rather than later.
Price Creep– It’s tempting to assume the amount of early buying that happened this year will “flatten the curve” on the demand for student devices over the summer, but there are many indicators that this won’t be the case. Some schools that wanted devices for all their students weren’t able to buy them this spring because of budget restrictions or because they simply didn’t have enough time. Several state governments have also begun recognizing the value of 1:1 student take-home devices and are starting to set aside special funding pools that could greatly increase the number of computers and Chromebooks schools are enabled to buy this summer.
Right now, prices on Chromebooks and student laptops are fairly good. As demand rises over the summer, however, we may start to see prices increase as suppliers tighten up on discounts and rebates. There could also be periodic shortages this year on the most popular low-cost models, which means if you wait too long, you might end up having to spend a bit more money on one of the higher-end models.
Lead Times–Availability and pricing aside, the increased demand for 1:1 student devices means there could be longer-than-normal wait times this summer for our popular setup services like white glove, cart wiring, and bulk packaging, which the majority of our customers include with their Chromebook orders. We’ve made several improvements this year at FireFly which should allow us to be more efficient than ever and keep our lead times trim. These include a newly-remodeled and streamlined production area, and flex-teams that will boost our staffing up or down in various departments as needed. Still, it’s uncertain just how busy the demand on our services will be this summer. By getting your orders in right now (or as soon as you can), you’ll be first in line to have your devices setup and ready in time for the upcoming school year.
“That all sounds great, but how do I order early?”
We realize that some districts have very tight restrictions on when orders can be placed within the budget cycle, while others are more flexible. The biggest thing to remember is that communication is king. The more we know about the pressures and timelines you’re working under, the better equipped we’ll be to offer you programs, options, and solutions that you might not have known existed. Here are some ideas:
Delayed July 1 Billing – One of the easiest ways to order your devices early through FireFly is our delayed July 1 billing program. Most schools qualify, which means you can send us a purchase order now and we’ll begin processing your order. We can even ship you the devices now, but we won’t actually process your purchase order and invoice your school until July 1 when the new budget cycle begins. Ask a FireFly Account Manager for more details if you’re interested.
Leasing – Although it requires a little bit of extra paperwork, leasing can be a great way to buy early and then budget out the expenses over time. Most leasing companies can defer your initial payment for several months, which means you can place your order now and not have it show up on your financial books until FY2021.
In the past, some people have avoided leasing because they assume it will cost them more money over time in interest than buying the devices outright. That’s not always the case. FireFly has at least one leasing option available through our educational partners where a three-year Fair Market Value (FMV) lease will cost you less than actually purchasing the devices. If you really want to minimize your up-front costs, FireFly even has monthly leasing options available that will cost your school as little as $7 per Chromebook per month.
Government and Private Funding – Finally, it’s worth mentioning that in this current COVID-19 situation there have been some alternative funding resources popping up that are available to schools and educators. States, local governments, and even private businesses have rallied together to help schools purchase technology for their students through grants, donations, and forgivable loans. You may need to do a little bit of digging to find them, but right now is a great time to seek much-needed financial support resources to help you successfully engage your new remote learners.
Need to discuss these ideas about how to make early purchasing work for your school? Get in touch with a dedicated FireFly Account Manager and we’ll walk you through our best tricks and solutions for budgeting and payment.
- Order early to lock-in pricing and availability of Chromebooks for your school.
- Let us know right away if you’ll be ordering 1,000+ Chromebooks this year so we can help you get them allocated with the manufacturer.
- Use alternative payment plans like leasing or delayed July 1 billing to help with shifting your purchasing timeline earlier.