Western European Hard-Copy Market Shows a Sluggish Start to the Year, According to IDC
Sharp declines in the consumer markets were largely responsible for the Western European hardcopy markets tumbling 12.1 percent in the first quarter of 2012 to 5.8 million shipments, compared with 6.6 million a year ago. Revenues also continued to suffer as prices continued to fall, with revenues declining 5.3 percent year on year to $2.9 billion in 1Q12 from $3.1 billion in 1Q11.
Commenting on these headline numbers, Arnaud Gagneux, director of IDC's Western European Imaging Hardware Devices and Document Solutions group, said, "Manufacturers and their channel partners are facing some dilemmas in 2012. Many customers are demanding lower costs of printing but with stipulations for improved productivity and workflows, but in general vendors still have the need to push hardware into the office environments to make their business models work, and finding the right balance between the two is a key issue in projecting future revenue and profit streams."
According to Phil Sargeant, program director, overall demand from both the consumer and business markets remains subdued. Political and economic climates in many countries continue to be unstable and GDP estimates for growth in 2012 are either minimal or expected toward the later stages of 2012. In 1Q12 consumer inkjets saw the heaviest declines of 16.6 percent, while even the combined business markets dipped year on year by 5.1 percent despite the strong growth in business inkjet shipments. The composition of the business markets is continuing to change, however, with color laser products now accounting for a third of all laser shipments; maybe more concerning for some vendors, however, is the fact that business inkjets accounted for one in five of the combined laser and business inkjet market, which represents most of the office products market.
There were few bright spots for 1Q12 but they did follow the trends of recent quarters, with business inkjets increasing 26.3 percent, accounting for 12.6 percent of the inkjet market, and the increased installations of high-speed inkjet devices, which were up 21.4 percent compared with a year ago.
Disappointments continue in many areas, though. The consumer markets generally remain in the doldrums, with home inkjet shipments declining as unemployment rises and general confidence levels remain low. This has had a knock-on effect into the business community as laser growth remains erratic and the markets in general need some major confidence boost if 2012 is to recover to growth.
Germany, the largest market in Western Europe, saw a decline in most segments. It actually declined 13.6 percent to 1.51 million units compared with 1.74 million units a year ago. As with previous quarters it was the consumer inkjet market that saw demand decline the most, at 22.7 percent, while the momentum for business inkjet products continued, as they saw strong growth of 25.5 percent. The laser market, however, stalled, but there were some positive signs for 2012 as both A4 and A3 color laser shipments increased, though even these bright spots were tempered due to negative growth of monochrome laser and continuing negative demand from home consumers.
The U.K. followed on from 4Q11 as it bucked the trend and remained the second-largest market in Western Europe, with 1.06 million units. This, however, was a decline of 6.7 percent and the only real growth market was again the business inkjet market, which grew 28.4 percent, in line with other main markets and the European average. Color laser shipments remained flat, while monochrome saw a sharp decline of 16.9 percent. Serial impact dot matrix (SIDM) saw surprise growth of 17.9 percent and high-speed inkjet products increased, but generally the market for the U.K. in 1Q12 contracted.
Shipments in France dipped below 1 million units in 1Q12, but this was only a decline of 4.0 percent, which is the lowest rate of all the Western European countries. In contrast, revenues in France actually increased 4.7 percent, largely due to increases in some of the mid and high-speed color and monochrome laser markets. The consumer inkjet market weakened by 8.0 percent but not by as much as other countries, and the business inkjet market saw stronger growth of 29.9 percent. Color laser shipments grew 4.9 percent due to strong MFP shipments and monochrome only showed minimal declines of 1.7 percent. Read more