A well-known name in the colour laser business says it’s making good progress in expanding its reseller base and market share.

“”I think we have one of the best ways to make money on printers in the market,”” says Stephanie Ryan, marketing director of Minolta-QMS Inc.’s North American operations.

Ryan, based in Mobile, Ala., says that about 20 Canadian resellers have been added to the company’s list since it began an aggressive program in April to sign up partners by offering lucrative sales incentives. Now it has some 45 resellers here, she said.

“”We would love to double the amount of producing resellers we have in Canada in (the first) six months,”” she added, “”and then double again in the next six months.””

Low qualification sales quotas for spiffs, instant online rebates, back-end rebates, sales leads and Web support are some of the lures the company is putting in front of resellers. Product can be ordered and tracked online.

“”We’ve really looked at our pricing structure to give resellers as much money as possible, because at the end of the day that’s what the reseller is looking for.””

And according to Ryan, it’s paid off big in the U.S. Last year Minolta-QMS’ magicolor line of printers held 11 per cent of the colour laser market there. By the second quarter of this year it held 31 per cent.

However, she couldn’t provide Canadian market figures.

But according to Bill Fournier, industry analyst at Evans Research, Minolta-QMS’s sales in this country aren’t showing such a marked change.

In the second quarter it held a mere 9 per cent of the market, behind Lexmark, Xerox and Hewlett-Packard. He also said colour laser quarterly figures should be taken lightly because they can be influenced by bulk sales to corporations and governments. Annual market figures are much more accurate, he said.

Fournier is skeptical Minolta-QMS can gain more than a few points of market share in a short time.

“”Where they are trying to compete is the lower end of the (price) spectrum, sub-$2,000 products. That’s where everybody hopes the sweet spot’s going to be, but it’s not there yet. That’s why colour laser market is really flat. It might not even grow this year.””

“”Other vendors recognize that there isn’t an attractive package at the low end to entice small office buyers yet (to colour lasers),”” he said, noting monochrome lasers still offer better speed. When performance approaches monochrome lasers “”the market will get a real boost,”” he predicted.

Jim Estill EMJ Data Systems Ltd. of Guelph, Ont., one of two Minolta-QMS distributors in the country, said the reseller program has helped him sign up around 20 dealers. “”Their program is very rich,”” he said. “”It’s a very high-margin opportunity for resellers. We are getting a good sign-up rate, better than we do for other vendor programs.””

Still, he said, the quality of the magicolor line has more to do with improved sales than the rebates.

Ryan said the new rebate program replaces Minolta-QMS’s two-level Gold/Silver reseller platform. “”We just didn’t see our business growing the way we wanted, she said. So emphasis was switched to making rebates easier to get not only for printers, but also parts, service and extended warranties.

“”I think resellers have got lots of ways to make money now,”” she said, “”more than in the past.””

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