Steven Hastings talks about where the print market is heading

Ricoh interview: The future of print, retail growth and ‘exploding’ MPS

From selling consumer ranges into retail for the first time, to sponsoring sports arenas and launching new AV products, print specialist Ricoh is on a mission to become a household name.

We speak to IT distribution channel director Steven Hasting to find out where the print market is heading and why Managed Print Services are about to explode.

How has business been this year?
Within my division we’ve seen a 29 per cent increase in unit sales compared to last year. We are up on consumables revenue by around 25 per cent too.

What have been the big sellers for Ricoh?
For the first time we’re selling through some retail accounts. So we’re actually selling on the High Street by retailers like Tesco, Argos, Ryman, Office Depot etc. This is a market sector that we have never sold into before.

We’ve always been known for SME/SMB copiers and printers and we made a decision last financial year that the range of entry level products we had, both mono- lasers and what we refer to as our gel-jet printers – a mid way between laser and inkjet – would be repackaged. We made them smaller, made the boxes more attractive to a general user, and that gave us the opportunity to work with new distribution partners.

We started working with Exertis at the beginning of this year with the intention of working with its retail division to start offering some of our products into a vertical marketplace that we’d never sold into in the UK or anywhere else in Europe.

Who are your other distribution partners?
Along with Exertis, we deal with Midwich, Northamber and DMC.

Do you have any schemes or promotions for resellers?
We have an entire reseller partner programme that we’ve been running. There are three levels: Approval, Registered and Solutions.

We are passionate about the education and public sectors. Looking at a broad range of products across the company, about half the schools in the UK are currently using Ricoh. What we’ve done over this quarter is introduce public sector pricing available to the reseller partners who are selling into that market.

What areas are you looking to grow?
For the remainder of this financial year, we’re looking to increase what we’re doing retail-wise.

For next year we will be concentrating on SME/SMB partners and looking for more partners who are able to sell our mid-range equipment into an office space. And more importantly, having products that would be suitable for home office users.

You use Ricoh in your office because we’re a trusted business partner, so why compromise on that when you’re working from home?

Are there any new products you can talk about?
From my channel specifically, we’ve launched a whole range of AV products. We have the lightest, smallest, most flexible, ultra-short throw projector, which is only available from Midwich. There are whiteboards becoming available through the channel now and we have new printers that will launch next year.

HP has just announced that it is moving into 3D printing, what do you think of that market?
I think it’s a very interesting market and it’s something that we at Ricoh are paying close attention to. Personally, it’s a logical place to go.

As there are more people entering that marketplace, with some of those vendors being more consumer-based as well, it’s the service that needs to mirror what you’d get for buying any other printer. As the market evolves it will become more consumer-focused, and therefore the type of service and packaging needs to reflect that.

Do you think a ‘paperless future’ will ever happen?
I think logically there will always be a requirement to print. People’s expectations are to be able to print, whether that’s a business, school, or home user.

What we as a vendor need to do is offer a broad range of solutions that print is part of, rather than printers just being the be all and end all of everything. Print and hardware are part of the services and solutions that we offer. We’re not a hardware company that do solutions; we’re a solutions company that also has hardware in its portfolio.

What changes do you expect to see in the print market in the near future?
There’s the rumbling mountain called MPS [Managed Print Services]. Soon the volcano will erupt and the lava of MPS will pour amongst us.

My opinion is that we will see more and more MPS contracts being signed when MPS is made available from a distributor. I feel at the moment there can be confusion right the way through the channel on the basis that an IT reseller is used to getting services and support from a distributor, but now they have an MPS contract yet still get the product from the distributor, whilst also speaking to the vendor to get the service. It’s confusing for people.

How has Ricoh Arena boosted business?
I personally feel Ricoh Arena has been very successful for us. It gets mentioned everywhere. More people are aware of Ricoh as a brand since us taking over the arena six or seven years ago.

You’ve refurbished your offices over the past year…
What we’ve particularly been doing over the past year is updating the style of our locations. It started with our Northampton office, then our Broadgate office, and we have a new office opening up in Staines in December. At these offices we can demonstrate a broad range of solutions. We encourage partners to come and work with us in these offices.

What’s next for Ricoh?
Broadly, it’s to continue on our path to be recognised as a solutions provider. For my channel, it would be very much about ensuring that Ricoh increases its market awareness, making sure people are embracing our technology and to be seen more as a competitor.

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