*NEWS*WALGREEN ENTERS INK CTG REFILL BUSS

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*NEWS*WALGREEN ENTERS INK CTG REFILL BUSS

 user 2006-04-10 at 10:46:00 am Views: 89
  • #15245

    Walgreen enters ink cartridge refill business
    Walgreen Co. , the nation’s largest drugstore chain, will roll out print cartridge refill stations at 100 Chicago-area stores, including a dozen in Northwest Indiana, in the next two weeks in hopes of sharpening its edge in the office supply market.
    For half the price of a new cartridge, customers can bring their used printer cartridges to refill stations at stores’ photo counters where an Ink-O-Dem machine will clean and refill them in less than 15 minutes.
    The refill stations have been in operation on a test basis in Green Bay and Des Moines and in one Chicago Walgreen store north of downtown.
    Ink cartridges can cost as much as $50, while the prices of printers themselves can be as low as $30. Walgreen will charge 50 percent of the retail price of new cartridges to refill old ones. For models that the machine is unable to service, the chain will provide comparable new cartridges at the refill rate.
    While a Walgreen spokeswoman said the service evolved in response to customer demand, the company hopes the stations will spotlight their office supply offerings.
    “It will drive awareness to the overall category,” spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce said. “Customers may not have expected Walgreens to offer ink cartridges in general.”
    Test markets with the refill stations have seen printer cartridge sales grow overall, according to Bruce. The company would not reveal how much money the stations, manufactured by McHenry-based TonerHead, are costing to install nor how much revenue they expect the ink refills to generate.
    A spokesperson for computer giant Hewlett Packard, a leader manufacturing printer cartridges, said the quality of the refills does not compare with new product. “We’ve found that customers who opt for less reliable alternatives may find them with cartridges that don’t work after they get home,” said Tuan Tran, vice president of marketing at the company.
    The refill service, however, will also likely appeal to the environmentally conscious. In North America more than 350 million nonbiodegradable cartridges are thrown away in landfills each year, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
    The refill service is not unique to Walgreen. Last week OfficeMax, Inc. announced the launch of its own ink refill stations at 900 stores across the country, and national chain Cartridge World has opened more than 20 stores in Illinois and Indiana that specialize in cartridge refills in the past year.
    In December, the company opened a new store in Munster, owned and operated by Sam and Marisa Giannakis, and has serviced more than 1,200 cartridges since then.
    Both OfficeMax and Cartridge World charge 30 to 50 percent less than the price of new cartridges.
    Chris Gallagher, who opened Chicago’s first Cartridge World more than a year ago, now operates two stores in Lincoln Park and Lakeview. He estimated his stores have refilled 25,000 cartridges in that time.
    “We welcome the fact that OfficeMax and Walgreen are entering the market because it increases the knowledge to the public that there is an alternative to buying brand-new, expensive cartridges,” Gallagher said.
    He said Cartridge World’s services stand out because the specialty stores stock thousands of inks versus the handful that other chains offer.
    But Walgreen believes their accessibility will put them above the competition.
    “The strongest benefit for us, as always, is going to be the convenience factor,” Bruce said.