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Ink tanks park themselves all over the lawns of Western Europe as orders flood in

Get off my grass! ... And onto my WFH desktop

Ink-tank printers flew off distributors' shelves in the first half of this year and onto the desks of work-from-home employees, providing one of the brighter spots for printer land in the first half of 2020.

Sales of the devices, which are sold pre-loaded with mini reservoirs of the expensive stuff, actually declined 11.1 per cent year-on-year in January across Western Europe, box counter Context told us, but by June sales through distribution were up 89.6 per cent.

All in for the first half of 2020, ink-tank printers were up 59.8 per cent to a little more than 247,000 units, or 6.6 per cent of the total inkjet category, which was itself up just 1.4 per cent to 3.492 million printers.

Antonio Talia, head of business analysis at Context, told The Reg: "These devices are appealing to consumers looking for more durable home essentials and sales of this type of printer performed very well during lockdown in Western Europe, with a [triple-digit] spike in demand in April and May, followed by a double digit growth in June."

The revenue derived from ink-tank printers shot up 15.7 per cent to £49.12m during the first half of the year – note that some vendors sell direct, including larger deals, and some printing is sold via managed print service contracts. These are not recorded in distributor numbers. Overall inkjet revenues in the region were up 0.4 per cent to £264.3m.

"Control measures associated with the pandemic have, therefore, created conditions that favour adoption of these [ink-tank] devices," said Talia. "Price increases resulting from a shortage of traditional consumer inkjet printers, and shortages of ink cartridges, have also encouraged uptake of ink-tank models."

El Reg has heard from contacts and readers that ink cartridges were running low after coronavirus disrupted supply chains, leading to a spike in prices. This is the opposite of the supply glut that dampened HP Inc's 2019. Some 57 Japanese businesses, including Sharp Corp, Brother and Kyocera, are reported to have received money from the Japanese government to move production out of China to Japan or other nations in Southeast Asia.

Context's Talia said that some vendors will not get manufacturing at "full capacity" until next month.

IDC said last week that the Western European printer and multi-function device market was down 10.4 per cent to 3.7 million units in Q1 – that's sales to distributors and retailers rather than sales "through". This was before the affects of COVID-19 were felt. ®

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