The growing trend of working from home (WFH) owing to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a handsome increase in sales figures of home printers. Sellers on Amazon have already observed a doubling in unit sales volumes since the month of April, 2020. Home printer sales figures have doubled in the Indian market owing to the COVID-19 lockdown with more people working from their homes. Latest reports indicate that more people are opting for ink-tank printers in comparison to those that are cartridge based.
Sales figures of home printers
Homeschooling has also been a major contributor towards growing demand for printers. All three major home printer players, namely Epson, HP and Canon, are witnessing steady growth. Homeschooling has created a need for printing multifarious things and since it is not convenient to move to stores every time there is a requirement, many families are choosing to purchase printers instead. The Senior Director, Printing Systems, HP Greater India Market, Sunish Raghavan, stated that growing sales figures are a result of scaled up requirements in terms of home printing. This comes from professionals who are working from home, small and medium businesses (SMBs) and of course, from the home-learning category.
He added that people are consistently moving towards fused patterns of learning covering both physical and digital learning and this is also spurring demand for home printing. The Senior Research Manager of the Imaging, Printer, and Document Solutions (IPDS) division at IDC, Nishant Bansal, expressed similar views while stating that schools do not majorly make printouts mandatory but parents remain wary about exposing their children to excessive screen time. As a result, they are going for hard copies of school documents for lowering eye strain of their children.
Bansal also opined that for certain categories of professionals including CAs (chartered accountants) and lawyers who have to flip through content in bigger volumes, demand has gone up considerably for home printers since it is more convenient to review and read hard copy content as compared to regular soft copies. Scanning is another major requirement for claims pertaining to both GST and reimbursements since customers are now executing these from home according to Bansal. Based on a report by IDC, the market for printers and peripherals in the country witnessed a 4.7% decline (year on year) for CY2019 on account of weaker demand from consumers. Positive momentum is now being generated in the market owing to growing demand over the last few months for home printers. The Senior General Manager, InkJet Printers, Epson India, Siva Kumar K, stated that although it is not possible to make an accurate estimate, there could be a major increase in consumer demand by 1.5-2 times in the home inkjet printer category.
Canon is also forecasting growth in double digits for home printer usage in India. The Director, Consumer System Products Division and Imaging Communication Products Division, C Sukumaran, stated that people are using printers at home for their professional needs and for their children while there are some who are spending time in documenting their memories during the lockdown. He is anticipating increased demand this year for photo printers likewise.
Market dominated by ink-tank printers
Demand has peaked for ink-tank printers which come with wireless printing (Wi-Fi connectivity backed) features. These are more cost-effective as compared to laser printers and current inkjet cartridge based printers. They also have more page yield for printing per ink bottle and people prefer them more over traditional cartridge printers and laserjet printers. Bansal stated that the inkjet printer segment remained largely flat last year in comparison to 2018. Within this category, the ink-tank division witnessed 7% of year on year growth in 2019. The ink cartridge category saw de-growth of 19% (year on year) as well. This indicates that the previous trend is continuing in 2020 as well.
Omnichannel growth witnessed for home printers
Offline is the predominant retail channel in the country although home printer demand has covered not just offline stores but online stores too. Category Leader-Consumer Electronics, Amazon India, Akshay Ahuja, stated that Amazon sellers have witnessed a huge rise in demand for home printers since the month of April this year and unit sales have gone up by two times accordingly. Ink-advantage and ink-tank printers are two segments witnessing major traction amongst buyers on Amazon according to him. He talked of how buyers from metros and even smaller towns like Chandi (Bihar), Ajnala (Punjab), Baliapur (Jharkhand) and Aspur (Rajasthan) are buying home printers online.
Flipkart has also witnessed growing home printer demand online, stating that searches have gone up by 75% for several types of printers, particularly wireless options. Ink cartridge transactions have gone up by two times ever since the imposition of the nationwide lockdown. The company has seen demand go up in metro cities like Mumbai and Bangalore while the Southern region has seen the highest quantum of increase in demand throughout the country. More buyers are now choosing affordable options for payments. 1 out of 4 buyers are choosing no-cost EMI or card payment offers.
What can be the scenario in the future?
People are now switching towards putting documents on the cloud while accessing them readily on their smartphones and computers as compared to physically carrying their documents. Printers had seen a slight dip in consumer demand over the last few years. Latest trends, however, indicate clear growth in demand. Printer manufacturers will still have some hurdles to cross in the market as per industry experts and analysts. Bansal from IDC opined that the growing demand for home printing will enhance the market although it may not be enough to cover the value/volume gap prevailing from lower demand for laser printing, majorly from MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises), the Government and corporates. Companies like Canon, HP and Epson also have to take into account the evolving behavior of buyers in the market. Demand has gone up across small towns majorly on e-commerce platforms and hence there is still a need to enhance offline retail presence and after sales service in various regions of India. Customers will look at after sales service even more critically in the future according to C Sukumaran from Canon India. The current need is to provide remote and smooth technical support/assistance to customers, thereby enhancing overall brand loyalty to a great extent.