The start of Q3 2019 saw printer sales continue to follow the pattern that has characterised the past few quarters, with healthy demand from consumer and business laser multifunction printers (MFPs), according to the latest distribution data published by Context, the IT market intelligence company.
However, volume sales of printers through West Europe’s largest distributors were down by -4.4% year-on-year in July 2019. The sharp growth of +9.1% in sales of laser MFPs (mainly driven by the exceptional growth of +30% Y/Y in the consumer segment during early Q3), was offset by the sharp decline of inkjet devices (SFPs -15.5% and MFPs -6.4%) and laser SFPs (-6.9%). With distributors reporting that reseller demand for SFPs, particularly lower-spec models, is low, the ongoing shift from single- to multifunction devices is likely to be further consolidated.
Business laser MFPs, which account for 73% of sales and 89% of revenue, registered a small year-on-year volume growth of +2.9% in July 2019, leading to an increase in revenue of +9.3% and reversing the negative trend the market saw in 2018 and 2019.
Sales of, and revenues from, laser MFPs increased in almost all WE countries in July 2019. In Italy, overall printer sales continued to grow in terms of both units and revenues (+14% and +28% year-on-year respectively) with most retailers and small resellers buying from distributors thanks to their ability to offer credit lines and smaller minimum order sizes. Vendors are also benefiting from this shift which transfers financial risk to the distribution channel. However, the question now is how much distributors will ask from vendors to compensate for the higher risk they are taking.
The United Kingdom also registered strong year-on-year growth in sales of laser MFPs in July 2019, in terms of both units (+12%) and revenues (+11%), driven by the business segment (+9.2%) which accounts for 87% of laser MFP sales (96.4% in terms of revenue) in the country. Consumer laser MFPs registered outstanding growth (sales up by +33% and revenue +31%) but they only account for 13% of sales and 3.6% of revenue.
“It is expected that both consumer and business demand for laser MFPs will remain strong throughout the second half of 2019 as new products become available”, said Antonio Talia, Head of Business Analysts at Context. “Lexmark, for example, is to roll out a much-needed revamp of its colour laser printers: its GO Line of more compact and faster SFPs and MFPs aimed at small and medium businesses will be available worldwide by mid-September. While a range of promotional activities during the upcoming back-to-school and Black Friday periods are likely to lead consumer sales for the rest of the year, overall printer demand is expected to remain soft.”