The paperless office is back again! (But only because print hardware supplies are jammed)

Hardcopy sales plunge double digits in Western Europe, both inkjets and lasers impacted

The Paperless Office strategy might be working finally ... but only because print vendors can't make enough hardware to satisfy demand.

Unit sales of inkjet and laser printers fell collectively by 21.5 per cent year on year to 4.07 million units in calendar Q3, according to stats compiled by IDC – that is 1.12 million fewer printers than were shifted into channels in the same period of 2020.

Production constraints and logistics issues impeded shipment volumes, and led to a 19.5 per cent drop in the inkjet segment; consumer inkjet machines fell 19.9 per cent and business models were down 16.1 per cent.

The laser market plunged 27.1 per cent and all areas of the A4, A3, monochrome, column, printer and multifunction printer (MFP) sectors declined by double digits, ostensibly wiping out any gains seen in the first half of 2021.

"Most brands are suffering from inventory issues and this ultimately affects revenues and profits, with feeling the effects more than others," says Phil Sergeant, program director at IDC in a statement.

Konica Minolta recently revised its full-year guidance, cutting its operating profit forecast by a third due to the "tight supply of semiconductors and other materials" that will limit the supply of products flowing from its Digital Workplace Business. This was compounded by an "explosion accident" at its toner plants that shut it down, meaning total production volumes will be at 75 per cent of estimated demand.

The need for printing devices and toner during the pandemic, caused by home working and home schooling, went through the roof, said IDC. This level of demand has moderated, yet some orders remain unfulfilled, said Sergeant.

Shipments declined in Germany by 16.5 per cent to circa 900,000 units – roughly 83,000 lower than a year ago. France was down more than 27 per cent to 759,000 and the UK dropped nearly 24 per cent to 682,000. Italy dropped 23.7 per cent to 516,000 units and Spain was down by the same percentage got 306,000.

In the first half of this year, the printer market rebounded in Western Europe, growing 18.9 per cent to 5.15 million units in Q1, and 18.8 per cent in Q2 to 4.39 million units.

Some 450 billion fewer pages were printed in 2020 because of COVID-19 disruption, that represents a plunge of 14 per cent to 2.8 trillion pages. Those print volumes are not expected to reach the same levels again. ®

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