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Print channel benefits from offices reopening

It’s been a tough time for those selling, servicing and supporting print hardware, but there are signs that 2022 will be a better year for the channel

The print channel can start to breathe a bit more easily as offices reopen – and revenue figures show the impact of that return to work on sales.

The pandemic, with its associated lockdowns, hit the print channel hard as hardware sat gathering dust in closed or skeleton-staffed offices across the country. But things have started to improve thanks to the vaccine programme and more people are returning to offices, even in a hybrid capacity, and that shift has led to an improvement in unit shipments.

According to market watcher Context, revenue sales through distribution of business printers across Europe were higher than consumer device sales last month.

Laser single function (SFP) printers were driving those sales, with the performance of inkjet hindered slightly by the shortages that have swashed around that market in recent months. Price increases have also bled into entry-level business and consumer printer prices, and that has also seen revenue improvements year on year

SMEs have been buying mid- to high-level products to support offices reopening, which has also had a positive impact on comparisons with last year’s revenue figures.

“While volume sales for both business and consumer printers were lower over this period compared to a year ago, business volumes fell at a slower rate,” said Antonio Talia, head of business analysts at Context.

“Revenues increased thanks to a different product mix, featuring more high-end devices, and price increases for entry-level and mid-range devices. The latter trend was influenced by a shortage of consumer printers in the same price range – especially laser SFPs – driving up the average selling price and overall revenue performance.”

There are also indications that the UK and Spain are the leading countries with upward-trending revenues in mid-January, which bodes well for the year ahead. Context said it is reasonable to assume that revenue in both countries will continue to trend above the 2021 average for the first half of 2022, boosted by business sales.

Throughout the pandemic, the print channel has been urged to look beyond simply relying on hardware and consumables to drive revenues because long-term changes are taking place in the market as customer move to a more digital world.

Context found further evidence of that with the average number of pages printed falling by 3% year on year in January. That was driven by the negative performance of toners, which fell by 3.3% compared with 2021. Other consumables, ink cartridges and tanks, failed to offset that decline.

Context also tracked the growing popularity of ink tanks, which continued to gain share over inkjet cartridges. That will be seen as a positive development by many in the industry because it protects the channel from losing revenues to vendors offering direct ink replacement services.

Read more on Print Cartridges and Consumables