Despite falling unit sales of single-function laser devices, multi-function laser printers revenues have been up each quarter over the past year (according to Context data), plus more resellers are offering Managed Print Services.
PCR asked its Retail Advisory Board about the shifting sector and what they think of 3D printers…
Naeem Adam, Technology Buyer, The Co-operative Group:
”Printer sales are encouraging at the moment and we expect this category to continue to grow as manufacturers focus on higher value products. A3 print is especially doing well and I see this market expanding a little due to the focus Brother has put on it and other vendors entering the market, although I don’t consider A3 to overtake A4.
Printing is different to tablets or mobile phones in the sense that portable printers won’t ever become commodities. Most people won’t walk around with one in their pocket.
In terms of 3D printers, I think they will grow and grow and grow. At the moment 3D printers are very gimmicky, however I sense there is more on the horizon, especially as the prices come down.”
Tim LeRoy, Head of Marketing, Novatech:
”We sell a lot of printers, however sales of retail printers across the board are definitely declining. But they are still an office essential so business/education spec printer sales are stable.
The paper-less office and school is a still a way off in reality, so printers are still a necessity at work, but I haven’t had one at home for years.
As for 3D printers, it is no fad, but there will need to be a price drop before they can radically take off in the mainstream. They will grow in prominence with children and schools, as well as businesses who need to make rapid prototypes and product designs.”
Chris Innes, MD, Micro Plus:
”Printers are still an important part of our product mix. Being keenly priced on consumables like ink, toner and paper gets us good repeat business and some decent footfall.
Most of the units we sell now are multi-function rather than print-only devices. There does seem to be a shift towards these being used in offices rather than photo-printing – I guess most photos are shared digitally between friends and family rather than printed. We used to sell a lot more ink to students for printing homework, but this has diminished, as I presume more schools now accept work in a digital format.
We haven’t ventured into 3D printing yet but I’m sure we will do in the future as soon as the purchase prices and running costs reduce. So far we’ve only had a handful of customers asking if we can print objects for them, rather than wanting to buy a 3D printer.”
CK, MD, Yoyotech:
”The advent of the modern smartphone and social media sites like Facebook have made printed albums a thing of the past. People only stock what is in demand and there is very little margin available in a printer these days. Sure, you could make money on ink and accessories, but even then customers are shopping around – across the entire web – just to save a little more.
The 3D printer market will just need a killer app to help it take off. Remember, Microsoft pioneered the modern tablet PC around ten years before Apple launched the iPad. Today, remembering everything with multiple back-ups is the default – you have to try really hard to lose or delete anything. We might print one or two images that we like, but for the most part everything is online – searchable and permanently stored.”
James Gorbold, Technical Marketing, Scan Computers:
”Scan has always offered a wide range of printers but it’s a very small part of the business as margins are low. No doubt the huge increase in laptop, smartphone and tablet sales has reduced the demand for in-house and home printing. After all, it’s a far more convenient viewing experience than printing out individual documents.
As for the future, I for one am very enthusiastic about 3D printing and have bought several ‘printed’ items. However, it is a totally different technology base to printing. it actually has more in common with the CAD/CAM market than with document printing.”
Duncan Rutherford, Product Manager, Dabs.com:
"For consumers there is still a demand to be able to print in their homes as they still have the need to print photographs and documents.
The refresh of the hardware market is much slower than in previous years but the consumables side is still booming.
In the B2B arena there is an increased demand for inkjet due to advances in technology from HP and Epson. But, there is definitely a move by some organisations to look at Managed Print Services to cut costs, streamline processes and print less – this is something that we have to adapt to.”
HAVE YOUR SAY
PCR asks its Retail Advisory Panel – formed of buyers and experts – about the biggest industry trends and issues each month. To join, email email@example.com.