At the beginning of the year, CRN exclusively revealed that Ricoh UK wanted to work directly with IT resellers for the first time to expand into new sectors and increase its share of the printer market (CRN, 20 February).
The vendor revealed that it had embarked upon a six-month trial with its super-distributor Computer Connections International (CCI) to help it target resellers. Previously, Ricoh’s route to market in the UK had been 70 per cent through its copier dealers and 30 per cent direct.
In July, Ricoh appointed a business-to-business (B2B) telemarketing firm, Tangible Results, to target 4,000 UK resellers (CRN, 24 July). The vendor was looking to recruit 100 IT resellers to sell its entire range of printers, including its new low-cost desktop printers – the GelSprinters. The printers were due for launch in the UK in April, but have since suffered a delay.
Speaking to CRN at Ricoh’s 2006 dealer conference in Madrid, Paul Cheetham, director of dealer sales at Ricoh UK, said: “The global production of the GelSprinters has been swallowed up by the Japanese domestic market: 10,000 GelSprinters were sold in the first month in Japan. Ricoh is ramping up production in China to meet global demand, but at the moment we are queuing up with other countries for our supply. We are waiting until there are enough GelSprinters to meet demand.”
Cheetham added that he hoped Ricoh UK will receive its quota of GelSprinters by December or January, but he is uncertain because of the strong demand for the printers in Japan.
“In Japan, Ricoh is the equivalent of how [dominant] Hewlett-Packard [HP] is in the UK,” he said. “Japan is a guaranteed market for Ricoh printers, especia lly with Christmas approaching, so for us to announce a launch date is impossible.
“We had one firm interested in buying 10,000 units, but we can’t pursue that until we know when they will be ready to deliver. To get the printer from the factory to us could take two months. Our initial allocation was 250, which we re ceived and they all went. We are confident that in two or three months, these products will be available in the UK. The good thing is that we are starting to build relationships with IT resellers, so we are doing a lot of the legwork in preparation for the official launch.”
Ricoh has given itself until the end of 2007 to reach its target of recruiting 100 IT resellers.
Sofia Dahlqvist, Ricoh’s dealer channel marketing manager, said: “The telemarketing campaign went well. From the 4,000 resellers that were targeted, 500 showed an interest in Ricoh and we are now communicating with them. A lot of resellers didn’t realise Ricoh makes printers, so it was a really good exercise in creating awareness of the Ricoh brand and product range.”
Although Ricoh hasn’t signed any resellers yet, Cheetham believes it will happen suddenly.
“It’s not going to be a gradual process of recruiting IT resellers,” he said. “We think it will be a ‘big-bang’ effect at some stage. The critical success factor will be the launch of the GelSprinters. What’s great is the amount of what I call the ‘welcome mat’ reaction we’re getting. Gaining an appointment with an IT reseller is one of the easiest things in our business at the moment.”
This is good news for Richard Allison, Ricoh’s regional sales manager for new business, who has been given the task of growing Ricoh’s UK printer business.
“If there are businesses up and down the country who trust Ricoh to put a £5,000 or £10,000 multi-functional device [MFD] in their office, on their network, then they will trust us to put a £500 printer into their office,” he said. “If they trust us for their high-value items, then they will trust us for their low-value items.
“My plan is to establish relationships with key IT VARs and develop relationships with key distributors.”
One such distributor is Northamber, which Allison revealed Ricoh is in talks with.
“Things are looking positive, but it isn’t a done deal yet,” he said. “Northamber is an old established company that doesn’t take out new partnerships very often. It won’t just jump into bed with any print manufacturer.”
Philip Grote, research analyst at Current Analysis, said that putting the recruitment of resellers on pause could be dangerous for Ricoh because it gives competitors more time to push their products.
“Ricoh needs to go full steam ahead and get some contracts signed,” he said. “The Northamber deal will give the company access to a large IT reseller base because it is more business focused than CCI, but that is only the first step.
“Ricoh needs to ramp up its channel support programme and give VARs the right tools to sell. Total cost-of-ownership tools that show cost savings to the client, as well as service programmes that allow VARs to lock-in consumables revenue after the hardware is sold, are some of the things manufactures are doing to get resellers’ attention. Ricoh needs be ready for that.”
Grote added that Ricoh’s GelSprinters will be competing against HP’s new ink-based print technology – Edgeline – which is due for release next spring.
Katie Palmer, MFD product manager for HP’s Imaging and Printing Group, said: “The development of this technology combines the benefits of ink and laser. It will arm channel partners with a market-leading technology that has some of the best printing speeds, operating costs and reliability in its class. This is a very compelling proposition for workgroup printing in the enterprise. The products will provide text and graphics print quality using specially formulated HP Vivera inks.”
Andrew Aikman, sales director at Ricoh dealer Capital Solutions, said: “Ricoh UK hasn’t been setting the heather on fire with printer sales, but to be fair neither have we. So it makes sense for Ricoh to look at a different route to market for its printers.
“If IT VARs do well with the GelSprinters in the small office/home office market and can help to grow Ricoh’s brand, then that can only be a good thing for Ricoh’s traditional dealers.”
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