Why finding webcams in stock may get even harder soon

Do you own a webcam? If your answer is anything but a resounding “yes”, please let me offer my sincere condolences. Finding webcams in stock has become an exercise in futility for some.

Demand for external webcams has skyrocketed during the pandemic, and it’s likely to continue for many months to come. Why is that the case? Well, let me explain. 

Even though the situation has somewhat improved – mostly in the sense that we’re no longer under stringent lockdown measures (for now) – webcams have become ingrained in our daily routines and are now considered an essential item.

That may sound like a strong statement to make, but think about it for a second. Whether you’re working from home, preparing for back to school, socializing with friends and family, or attending online classes, you’re probably going to need a webcam. Using your phone is fine for quick impromptu calls, and your laptop’s built-in camera can sometimes do the job. But if you want good video and audio quality, and air of professionalism to any meeting you attend, a webcam is a must. 

The problem is, manufacturers were never equipped to deal with this monumental rise in demand. Toilet paper companies were acutely aware that – even though shelves were depleted for far longer than most of us felt comfortable – ultimately, it’s easy to print more paper. Demand will always be there for loo roll after all, and a lot of the time people tend to buy in bulk.

Webcams, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of ramping up manufacturing. First of all, it would be a huge financial risk to produce thousands of webcams, only for them to sit on shelves once demand was eventually placated. Furthermore, manufacturers, particularly in the technology sector, have been hit hard by Covid-19 measures. It’s been difficult for them to restore their usual levels of output, meaning that less webcams are being produced.

Storage wars

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Shipping is also a factor. Most webcams will be exported into the US or Europe, and the pandemic has caused countless logistical problems in that sense. If supply is low from the factory, it doesn’t make sense to send a truck or plane halfway around the world if it only contains a hundred or so webcams. It’s an expense which has to be balanced carefully.

That leads to the situation we’re in now, where demand continues to far outweigh supply. When webcams do appear in stock, they vanish within an instant. And those that do remain are often charged at a premium by resellers. It’s quite a conundrum. 

Unfortunately, it’s hard to predict when this trend will change. As coronavirus persists, being able to communicate remotely will remain essential. Some children and parents are in limbo when it comes to going back to school, millions of people are searching for jobs and will be required to either hold virtual interviews or rely on a webcam to work effectively. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s been a significant uptick in people streaming video games as a new hobby.

Personally, I know that I’d have been in dire straits if I hadn’t picked up a webcam before the pandemic hit. Like thousands of others, I’ve been remote working for a number of months – a challenge that would have been tremendously more difficult without a webcam. The thought of being unable to see, hear and interact with my colleagues would have been challenging to say the least. 

If you see a webcam in stock, then, and you’ve been searching for some time, don’t just add it to your basket. You never know when you might need one in these uncertain times.

See more webcam offers with our roundup of the best cheap webcams and see the best webcams: top picks for working from home.

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