This Week in Imaging: Thoughts on Sharp Dealer Meeting; Katun Legal Woes

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Photo credit: Kathy Wirth

Among the interesting news this week was news out of the Sharp National Dealer Meeting.

Ultimately, as with nearly all BTA vendors and dealers, Sharp must contend with the long-term sagging economy, the decline of office printing in general, and a poor business-investment climate. What’s a dealer to do?

  • Face the fact that the color toner market has returned to niche status – in other words, it’s no longer a value-add and most customers don’t want to pay a premium for color imaging, as many have already decided to limit color printing unless it’s mission critical – something they can do with rules-based printing software, for instance.
  • Replace as many aging and off-lease units as possible with fast and reliable black-and-white units that have a low Total Cost of Ownership.
  • Lock units into managed print services contracts in order to ensure future sales of consumables. The dealer can charge the same price as charged for service-intensive non-CRU units and pocket the difference.
  • Continue to push turn-key digital workflows with inherently secure MFPs as the input platform.
  • Push digital light-production and customized printing to high-volume customers and print-for-pay shops.

Sharp wants to differentiate its brand, and there’s also plans for managed network services. But let’s face it – to most end-users, its lineup and programs appear roughly equal to that of other vendors – and some vendors have superior brand recognition. Ultimately, in order to keep dealers dedicated to Sharp, or entice dealers of other brands to take on Sharp as a second line, as with all vendors, this differentiation will be key. At the same time, while Sharp’s business-imaging group continues to post healthy revenue and profit for several quarters (in contrast to Sharp’s consumer-oriented businesses that continue to struggle), part of this is due the continuing effects of the weaker Japanese yen, which make Japanese-sourced products more price-competitive in places such as the United States. One interesting Sharp strategy is its A3 partnership with HP Inc., which added new Sharp-sourced A3 MFPs to its MFP S900 series last week (see HP Inc. Announces Highest-Volume A3 MFPs to Date, New JetAdvantage Solutions, Document Scanners) – but it goes without saying that this partnership won’t make anything easier for Sharp dealers.  All-in-all, as has been said often, as office print volumes decline, and amid stiff competition, the ability to adapt the copier/MFP as an on-ramp for securely streamlining business document workflows will be the key differentiator for BTA vendors and dealers. 

This week IDC reported that the worldwide printer/copier/MFP market declined in the third quarter, but business-inkjet shipments were up 16.3 percent. This seems to indicate that the prejudice against inkjet in the office versus laser is losing its hold.

Meanwhile, long-time OEM-alternative parts- and consumables-supplier Katun is taking it on two rather formidable fronts: Toshiba and Canon. This is a controversial issue from many perspectives, as use of third-party parts and consumables invalidates warranties. Nevertheless, many small dealers and MPS providers are willing to take that risk in their quest for profitability.

The FTC should block the merger of Staples and Office Depot. Enough already with the government looking the other way with the flaunting of antitrust laws. We need choice and competition in order to maintain a healthy business environment.

Office-Imaging News

Sharp Rolls Out New Color Copier/MFPs, MWA Intelligence Partnership, New Software at National Dealer Meeting – Read more here.

IDC: Worldwide Printer/Copier/MP Market Declines in Third Quarter, but Business-Inkjet Shipments up 16.3 Percent – Read more here.

New Brother ‘Business-Centric’ ADS and Professional Document Scanners – Read more here.

Production- and Commercial-Printing News

New HP PageWide Web Press T1100S Said to ‘Reinvent’ Package Printing with Box Customization – Read more here.

Legal Briefs

FTC Sues to Block Staples Acquisition of Office Depot – Read more here.

Katun Says its Canon-Alternative Supplies are IP-Compliant – Read more here.

Katun Responds to Toshiba Lawsuit, Says Products Don’t Infringe – Read more here.

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November 2015

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