The copier vendor is looking for VARs and systems integrators to team up with its copier dealer channel to help increase sales of its printers. Laura Hailstone reports from Ricoh’s 2005 dealer conference in Prague
Ricoh began life in 1936 as Riken Kankoshi, manufacturing diazo positive sensitised paper. In the 1940s it moved into camera production and introduced its first copier. Ricoh UK was formed in London in 1980, and although today Ricoh’s product range includes digital multifunctional copiers/printers, laser printers, fax machines, scanners and print management software, the firm has found it hard to shrug off its old copier vendor image.
Speaking exclusively to CRN at Ricoh’s 2005 dealer conference in Prague, Paul Cheetham, director of dealer sales at Ricoh UK, revealed that this is something he wants to change. “Our printer range is probably one of our best kept secrets because we go through traditional copier dealers. We have a fantastic range of printers that we need to promote to system integrators (SIs) and VARs. There are some great selling points within those printers, such as total cost of ownership and the fact that they are very reliable,” Cheetham claimed.
Ricoh UK’s business is done 70 per cent through dealers and 30 per cent direct, but Cheetham is keen to get VARs and SIs selling Ricoh printers. “If you look at the industry in the past, you had the likes of Xerox which dominated the market – everybody used to ask for a Xerox copier. If you look at some printer vendors, they’ve almost achieved that status, but once somebody else comes along with innovative products, then any dominance of the market will give way to new and exciting approaches.
“Our message to resellers is before going down the traditional route, consider the Ricoh proposition. VARs will see that our printers are not only competitive, they also fit business needs. We want VARs and SIs to look outside the box and add Ricoh to their list of printer suppliers,” Cheetham said.
Although he said he wants VARs and SIs on board, he admitted Ricoh will not be supplying directly to them. “It will be done through our [copier] dealer channel. Our dealers used to be traditional copier dealers but if you look at our top dealers, they are very sophisticated in the way that they can tailor solutions to the client – so they are definitely not old-style dealerships anymore. All the dealers here can work in partnership with SIs and VARs to a mutual benefit.”
One might question that traditional copier dealers and VARs teaming up is an unusual move, but Cheetham claimed: “VARs and SIs tend to have a good geographic spread across the country, so teaming up with a local Ricoh dealer is a perfect fit.”
Cheetham revealed at the conference that Ricoh will be introducing a low-end, gel consumer printer. “It’s called GelSprinter and is in its early stages. We will be modifying it over the next six months. It uses new technology that is very cost effective – it’s not ink, it’s not bubblejet, it’s gel. We’re looking at gel becoming the new ink/bubblejet. It will be a consumer, very low-cost desktop printer.
“Ricoh’s target in the next year is to sell £42m worth of GelSprinters, which is a lot,” Cheetham said.
Gary Downey, associate director of marketing UK for Ricoh dealer Ikon, said: “We’ve been selling Ricoh products for 15 years – they’re great, and the company provides excellent support. It’s reassuring to see Ricoh’s focus moving to workflow at the conference.
“It is also focusing on environmental issues, which is good as it fits with our efforts. We have a lot of customers now aware of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive and other environmental issues, so it is on our agenda,” Downey added.
Jason Harcourt, senior analyst at Context, said: “In the copier/multifunction printer space Ricoh is the market leader. It is very much copier-focused so we rarely see them crop up in our statistics. In the printer market it is quite a small player. In the second quarter 2005, Ricoh had two per cent of the colour laser printer market in terms of shipments. I believe that some of the engines are OEM’d through other vendors though.”
Asked what he thought of Ricoh wanting its copier dealers and VARs to team up, Harcourt said: “I applaud Ricoh in trying to stick with its [copier] dealer channel. It may be able to get its copier dealers to sell more printers. A lot of vendors are trying to get into the office automation space and the opportunity is there for copier dealers to provide a complete solution.
“With regards to their GelSprinter product, attacking the ink space is quite a tricky thing to do and is an interesting challenge. Xerox tried and failed. Attacking the ink space when there are four very strong players is a bit foolish,” Harcout claimed.
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