More ink for stores



Store brand users do not rate reliability and quality as highly as OEM and aftermarket users, according to a new InfoTrends study.


The report, entitled Store Branding Imaging Supplies Study, which looks at toner supplies, photo paper and inkjet supplies, claims that store brand users appear to be seeking a balance. They value a number of factors, including reliability, quality, convenience, price and one-stop-shopping. Store brand users typically believe that OEM products are better, but their primary focus is receiving a better overall value.


InfoTrends’ research found that owners of monochrome and colour machines show very few differences when rating the importance of quality, reliability, cost and other features of colour and monochrome toners. There was also almost no difference between the two groups’ ratings of OEM, store brand and aftermarket brand products.


"For years, we assumed that users would be more reluctant to try non-OEM colour toners than non-OEM monochrome toners," commented John Shane, a director at InfoTrends. "Nevertheless, the nearly identical response between the two groups suggests that most consumers are quite willing to try non-OEM colour supplies, once non-OEM colour toners are comparable to the quality of monochrome non-OEM toners."


And there is also a trend from aftermarket to store brand supplies, particularly in inkjet supplies. Store brands accounted for 40 per cent of the non-OEM market in 2004, but this percentage is expected to reach 66 per cent by 2009.


Those that could well be losing out therefore include Nukote, Katun and Peach. And some fear the trend may also eat into the bottom line of printing powerhouses like HP, Canon and Lexmark, which currently own 84 per cent of the printing supplies market, according to InfoTrends.


Shane said he expects store brand sales to grow at a 40 percent compound annual growth rate through 2009, while aftermarket sales will grow at only 1 percent. Print giants will grow at an 8 percent rate, he added.


But Shane believes that printing giants like Seiko Epson may have more to lose than HP, Dell and Lexmark, which bundle their ink and toner cartridges with printer heads that are protected under strict intellectual property rules. Epson’s and Canon’s printer heads meanwhile are sold separately.


When respondents were asked to specify the store brands that they currently used, Staples, Office Depot or OfficeMax came up trumps. This is not surprising, because OP superstores have been emphasising their store brands of late, said InfoTrends, all eager to grab a piece of what is now a $100 billion imaging supplies market.


But while the big box brands are gaining in popularity, the study also reveals that Wal-Mart is the most popular location for purchasing inkjet cartridges overall and particularly popular with Lexmark users. "Wal-Mart is the wild card," said Shane in the report. "It’s not clear if it will pursue it."