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 user 2006-10-20 at 12:20:00 pm Views: 35
  • #16595

    Ricoh UK hopes to score with GelSprinter

    Ricoh UK’s plans to grow its share of the printer market by working directly
    with resellers have been put on hold following a delay in the launch of its
    GelSprinter printers in the UK.

    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

    “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

    “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.”