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The printer market was hit hard by the pandemic but has managed to bounce back, registering a strong close out to 2022 as marketing campaigns driving higher-end products hit the mark.
The latest quarterly analysis of the printer market across Western Europe in the fourth quarter, from Context, which tracks sales through distribution, indicated that both revenues and volumes of sales exceeded expectations.
The analyst found there was a 12.3% year-on-year increase in unit sales and a 27.8% increase in revenue during the period for printer hardware. Those figures were fuelled by promotions that encouraged users to invest in higher-end consumer and enterprise podcasts. There were also efforts on the consumer side to get entry-level stock shifting through distie warehouses more quickly.
SME-sized channel partners ended 2022 in a strong position and Context has seen that continue into the first days of January. Sales have been buoyant across both public and private sector customer bases, and higher sale prices have driven increased revenue.
Consumers have also been prepared to buy hardware again, with sales going through retailers growing steadily through Q4.
“This is in part due to the aggressive promotions designed to clear entry-level stock and strong business demand for higher-end devices,” said Antonio Talia, head of market and business analysis at Context. “These factors helped the market perform significantly better than Context’s most optimistic scenario for the quarter.
“Poor market performance in 2021 means the comparatives are favourable, but the product mix has changed over the last year,” he added. “In Q4 2022, there was more emphasis on high-end consumer printers and mid- and high-end business devices – particularly expensive multi-function laser printers – than in 2021.”
As well as running promotions, vendors have also been stepping up the ranges of business printers that their channel partners can take out to market. Brother and Epson have been among those that have added more hardware to their ranges to help partners unlock customer spending.
The fourth quarter was not all good news, though, and the consumables market showed a steep decline as the market continues to shift away from legacy options.
Context found that the consumables market declined by 18.2% year-on-year in unit sales and 11.4% in revenues. A drop-off in sales of ink cartridges, which still make up 80% of the sales across Europe, and toners was largely responsible. Users are continuing to shift towards refillable ink bottles, which are resonating because of price and sustainability pluses.
Direct consumable replacement services are also continuing to increase in popularity, which poses a threat to the trackable sales going through the channel because that business is largely handled direct.
Those that were expecting the return to offices to have an impact on printed pages volumes would be disappointed to hear that the number of pages dropped sharply in December 2022.
With sustainability initiatives more visible across both public and private sector customers, the expectation is that the move to paperless will continue and volumes will decrease further in 2023.