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 user 2005-04-19 at 11:19:00 am Views: 67
  • #8965
    Companies That Refill Used Inkjet Cartridges Fill Niche
    in Market

    When Julianna Leighton tried to refill the inkjet
    cartridges in her home printer with a do-it-yourself kit, it was a disaster.

    “There was ink all over everything,” said Leighton, of Ashland, Neb. “I
    gave up.”
    Leighton, who makes bath salts and sells them on the Internet,
    said she goes through many cartridges in printing labels and invoices.
    supervisor for a call center when she isn’t selling bath salts online, Leighton
    was resigned to buying new, brand-name cartridges — until she spotted Island
    Ink-Jet during a recent visit to Westroads Mall.
    For $31, Leighton was
    able to have three cartridges refilled and to buy two others that already had
    been refilled. She said she would have spent about $36 for three new cartridges.

    “Why spend more for something brand new when you can get it so much
    cheaper? This is a very good deal,” Leighton said.
    Ryan Lofton, local
    franchise owner for Canadian-based Island Ink-Jet, opened kiosks at Westroads,
    Oak View Mall and Mall of the Bluffs in Council Bluffs about a year ago. He said
    he hopes to open five more locations in the Omaha area next year.
    Ink-Jet is one of several companies that sell refilled or remanufactured
    cartridges. Island Ink-Jet, based in Courtenay, British Columbia, has more than
    155 locations in Canada, Mexico and the United States.
    With names such
    as Rapid Refill Ink, Cartridge World — which has one Omaha location, at 2425 S.
    132nd St., and one in Lincoln at 6900 O St. — and Caboodle Cartridge, the
    chains are part of a growing worldwide industry expected to generate more than
    $20.9 billion in sales this year, a 10 percent increase over 2003, according to
    Lyra Research of Newtonville, Mass., a research firm that provides market
    product, technology information and analysis focused on the imaging industry.

    In North America, $8.8 billion in sales are forecast for this year, an
    increase of almost 9.5 percent, Lyra said. Third-party inkjet refills hold a 16
    percent market share.
    The inkjet refill industry is growing because
    consumers are printing more and because of the kinds of documents they are
    printing, said Jim Forrest, managing editor of Hard Copy Supplies Journal, a
    monthly newsletter of the inkjet industry published by Lyra.

    Multifunction printers that print, copy, fax and scan and the printing
    of digital photographs and Internet pages use more ink.
    Refilled and
    remanufactured ink cartridges are nothing new, Forrest said. The new twist is
    the retail store where customers can drop off cartridges, he said. The trend
    started several years ago in the Far East and Australia and arrived in the
    United States about a year ago, he said.
    Forrest said the refill inkjet
    industry is projected to grow by 7.8 percent annually between 2003 and 2008.
    “That’s very significant growth for any product,” he said. Since opening about a
    year ago, Lofton and his staff of nine workers have refilled about 40,000 ink
    cartridges at the three locations. This year, sales are projected to reach
    $500,000, he said.
    Prices range from $4 to $19.50, Lofton said. The
    service is quick, usually taking about 15 minutes to refill a pair of
    Spokesmen for Epson America Inc., of Long Beach, Calif., and
    Hewlett-Packard of Palo Alto, Calif., said the quality of refilled and
    remanufactured cartridges is inferior to their companies’ brand-name cartridges.
    E-mail messages to other manufacturers — Lexmark International and Canon U.S.A.
    – requesting interviews were not returned.
    Boris Elisman, vice
    president of marketing and sales imaging and printing supplies at
    Hewlett-Packard, said the company delivers “a superior value to our customers.”

    The inks HP uses take three to five years to design and are not
    available elsewhere, Elisman said. The perception exists that refilled
    cartridges offer a better value to consumers, he said, but “most people know not
    to expect the same quality and value.”
    Kristine Snyder, a spokeswoman
    for Epson, agreed, adding that the company cannot guarantee the quality of
    results when consumers use non-Epson supplies.
    Elisman and Snyder said
    refilled and remanufactured cartridges produce lower-quality color, print fewer
    copies and cause misfires of printer nozzles and other printer malfunctions.

    Lofton disagreed, saying that Island Ink-Jet’s quality tests produce
    results that are as good as Hewlett-Packard’s.
    “We use specialized ink
    and a strict quality control process,” he said.
    Island Ink-Jet carries
    120 kinds of ink because each cartridge has a specific ink, he said. If a
    cartridge is too old to refill, Lofton said, a fresh one is offered.

    Forrest, the managing editor of the inkjet newsletter, said the
    manufacture of printer ink is indeed “rocket science.” He said companies such as
    Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark spend billions on sophisticated technology to
    formulate their inks.
    However, Forrest said, he believes the ink sold by
    Island Ink-Jet franchises is a “reasonably good one.”
    Lofton said
    first-time customers are skeptical about refilling an empty cartridge. But once
    a clerk goes through the process, which includes a print test, and explains the
    company guarantee, “we have a customer for life,” he said.
    Lofton said
    about half his customers are businesses.
    Rahno Brown, office manager for
    Brown Architecture & Design, said her company has used the service for about
    a year after reading about refilled cartridges in a business journal.

    The architectural firm, at 3624 Farnam St., has four printers, which use
    a lot of cartridges, Brown said. The company has saved more than 75 percent in
    costs, Brown said, and is pleased with Island Ink-Jet’s products and
    At first, though, she was skeptical.
    “I wasn’t sure that
    a refilled cartridge would work just as well as a new one,” she said. But after
    seeing the printed results, Brown said: “There is no difference in the quality.”