The printing channel benefits from the reopening of offices

The print channel may start to breathe a little easier as offices reopen – and revenue numbers show the impact this return to work is having on sales.

The pandemic, with its associated lockdowns, has hit the print channel hard as hardware gathers dust in shuttered or skeletal offices across the country. But things have started to look up thanks to the vaccination program and more and more people are returning to the offices, even in a hybrid capacity, and this change has led to improved unit deliveries.

According to market watcher Context, revenue generated from the distribution of business printers across Europe outpaced sales of consumer devices last month.

Single-function laser printers (SFPs) were driving the sales, with inkjet performance hampered slightly by the shortages that have swept through this market in recent months. The price increases also trickled down to prices for entry-level business and consumer printers, which also led to improved year-over-year revenue.

SMBs purchased mid- to high-level products to support the reopening of offices, which also had a positive impact on comparisons with last year’s turnover.

“While commercial and consumer printer volume sales were lower during this period compared to a year ago, business volumes fell at a slower rate,” said Antonio Talia, Head of business analysts at The context.

“Revenues grew thanks to a different product mix, with more high-end devices, and price increases for entry-level and mid-range devices. This latter trend was influenced by a shortage of consumer printers in the same price range – particularly laser SFPs – which drove up the average selling price and overall revenue performance.

There are also indications that the UK and Spain are the main countries with rising revenues in mid-January, which bodes well for the year ahead. Context said it’s reasonable to assume revenues 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 simple reliance on hardware and consumables to generate revenue, as long-term shifts occur in the market as customers are moving to a more digital world.

Context found further proof of this with the average number of pages printed down 3% year on year in January. This is explained by the negative performance of toners, which fell by 3.3% compared to 2021. Other consumables, ink cartridges and tanks, did not compensate for this decline.

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

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