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Brother leads the field for inkjet in-store popularity and presence

Issue #1005/1 – Hewlett-Packard may lead the field with the highest inkjet AiO market share in terms of gross sales but it has been tipped off the top of the pyramid when it comes to in-store visibility and popularity – by Brother – in the UK at least! Check out the details here.

While browsing the internet recently to keep an eye on the printer market, I was astounded at the ‘presence’ that Brother seems to enjoy at one of the UK’s foremost and longstanding business stationery stores.

So, I decided to check around, add up some numbers and see just how much ‘presence’ Brother has developed.

Brother MFC PRO-700CBrother MFC PRO-700C

All but unknown for inkjet printers just a few short years ago, Brother has risen to through the ranks in its chosen inkjet field – three and four-function inkjet multifunction. Seeing the future with remarkable clarity, without even bothering to design and build a single-function inkjet printer (except for one single-function mobile printer), Brother entered the inkjet market in 1997 with a specifically business-oriented, sheet-feed, fax-based multifunction device, MFC PRO-700C (third-party supplies still available).

Brother MFC-760Brother MFC-760

Further sheet-feed models followed, together with a range of flatbed inkjet MFPs, actually looking remarkably like many of the flatbed laser MFPs available today! But, it wasn’t until 2003 that the first of the appealing slim-line designs began to hit the shelves. The other designs continued for a while, including at least one network-ready inkjet MFP, the MFC-3820CN, in around 2003/4.

Brother MFC-4820CFirst of the
slim-line models
Brother MFC-4820C

Since then, Brother’s devices have always been slim-line, compact and attractive, improving with each new generation and with a definitive ‘business-like’ feel to them. True, if the early machines are set against the newest models, they are noisy but their style still holds good even today and they were, and still are, very effective and efficient machines.

Their print quality is great, print speed adequate, photo prints (especially from 2006 generation engines onwards) are natural and life-like and, with their individual ink tanks, Cost of Printing can often be lower than the competition.

It is perhaps because we’ve come to expect Hewlett-Packard to be the market leader; have seen and heard of Epson and Canon for decades; and have witnessed Lexmark’s fortunes and struggles in the inkjet market over the years that we have perhaps tended to sideline Brother’s position in the market. After all, Brother was known only as a player in the laser-based corporate and public sector markets (or sewing machines) until recent years.

So why has Brother succeeded where others have either failed or struggled?

In the few years around the turn of the century we saw Xerox make an attempt on the inkjet market with a single-function inkjet printer. Sadly that venture failed more as a result of the financial fortunes of the corporation as a whole rather than on the failure of what was actually not a bad piece of hardware – it was innovative if unexciting.

We have also seen Dell tackle the market with re-badged Lexmark hardware, finding some small degree of success on the back of its direct PC sales model.

Taking a user’s view of the hardware, Brother’s inkjet AiOs are appealing for a variety of reasons, some mentioned earlier:

  • Models are slim-line and attractive. They fit equal appropriately into a professional, small business or home environment
  • Individual ink tanks ensure that inks can be replaced only when required (note the dramatic rise in individual ink models from Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark in the past three years or so!)
  • Buying these ink tanks does not break the bank
  • Print speeds may not be the best in the industry but are adequate
  • Print quality is not in question at all
  • Brother is still the only manufacturer to have A3 multifunction models on the market
  • Brother has a model in the range to suit every small business or personal need
  • Hardware purchase prices are very competitive and appealing
  • Hardware sets itself up, whether USB or network, without undesirable user intervention, including scan-to location

So, let’s take a look at the results of our mini survey and see just how visible Brother’s inkjet multifunction devices are in the market.

We’ve looked at six of the UK’s major online resellers, all with a significant business market interests. The sample could have been bigger but not all stores are capable of listing products in order of popularity. In one instance, the ranking was in order of ‘user rating’ and in two other instances in an order that implied popularity without specifying the fact (a phone call confirmed the overall rankings). Either way, the first products a users sees when visiting the site enjoy the highest visibility.

Two levels of visibility have been recorded, the top 30 inkjet multifunction products from each store and the top 10 products. We’ll start with the more general position, covering the Top 30 in each store.

Brand Visibility and Popularity – Top 30

Number of
Brother Canon Epson Hewlett-
Kodak Lexmark Ricoh Total
Store 1 7 5 5 3 2 8 0 30
Store 2 5 3 7 10 0 5 0 30
Store 3 5 6 7 7 0 5 0 30
Store 4 13 6 2 4 2 0 3 30
Store 5 10 1 7 6 2 4 0 30
Store 6 12 0 6 11 0 1 0 30
Total 52 21 34 41 6 23 3 180

Brand Visibility and Popularity – Top 30

Brother Canon Epson Hewlett-
Kodak Lexmark Ricoh Total
Store 1 23% 17% 17% 10% 7% 27% 0% 100%
Store 2 17% 10% 23% 33% 0% 17% 0% 100%
Store 3 17% 20% 23% 23% 0% 17% 0% 100%
Store 4 43% 20% 7% 13% 7% 0% 10% 100%
Store 5 33% 3% 23% 20% 7% 13% 0% 100%
Store 6 40% 0% 20% 37% 0% 3% 0% 100%
Total 29% 12% 19% 23% 3% 13% 2% 100%

Although Brother has the largest number of products in the Top 30 in only half of the stores, its still strong showing in the other three stores ensures that its overall visibility is considerably higher than any of its competitors, accounting for 29% of the total of 180 products.

Even market leader Hewlett-Packard accounts for only 23% of products seen in the Top 30, while Ricoh just makes it into the line-up. It only takes a brief glance at the charts below to appreciate the general strength that Brother has established in its market presence.

Brand Visibility and Popularity – Top 30

Inkjet Multifunction Printers – by Store

It is the overall position, taking into account agglomerated figures, that demonstrates the situation best, as shown in the pie chart below. Here we see how Brother beats Hewlett-Packard into second place by a 6 point margin.

Brand Visibility and Popularity – Top 30

Inkjet Multifunction Printers – Overall Visibility
#1005 - Chart 2

Behind Hewlett-Packard, Epson also holds a fairly strong position with 19% of the visible products but Canon and Lexmark struggle to break into double figure shares at 12% and 13% respectively, which is something of a surprise for Canon and a dramatic turnaround of fortune for Lexmark, which accounted for very significant visibility levels a decade ago.

Moving on, we now narrow this view to just the Top 10 products in each of the six stores – and here we find Brother’s position actually strengthened.

We find that Brother has almost exactly twice as many instantly-visible products overall as Hewlett-Packard, despite the fact that one store has only one Brother product in its Top 10 and Hewlett-Packard takes a 50% share in another store! This is a quite remarkable position for Brother to be in, especially to find a major store with nine of the Top 10 products in its listing being Brother. Note that all seven manufacturers are still represented in the Top 10 line-up! Not one has dropped out altogether.

Brand Visibility and Popularity – Top 10

Number of
Brother Canon Epson Hewlett-
Kodak Lexmark Ricoh Total
Store 1 2 3 3 2 0 0 0 10
Store 2 3 1 1 5 0 0 0 10
Store 3 1 2 3 3 0 1 0 10
Store 4 5 2 0 0 2 0 1 10
Store 5 9 0 1 0 0 0 0 10
Store 6 5 0 2 3 0 0 0 10
Total 25 8 10 13 2 1 1 60

However, what is particularly clear is that the strength of Lexmark’s visibility has been severely depleted in the top echelons compared to the more general Top 30 situation, with only one product making into the Top 10 in one store – the same as Ricoh with its relatively niche Gel ink product range.

Brand Visibility and Popularity – Top 10

Brother Canon Epson Hewlett-
Kodak Lexmark Ricoh Total
Store 1 20% 30% 30% 20% 0% 0% 0% 100%
Store 2 30% 10% 10% 50% 0% 0% 0% 100%
Store 3 10% 20% 30% 30% 0% 10% 0% 100%
Store 4 50% 20% 0% 0% 20% 0% 10% 100%
Store 5 90% 0% 10% 0% 0% 0% 0% 100%
Store 6 50% 0% 20% 30% 0% 0% 0% 100%
Overall 42% 13% 17% 22% 3% 2% 2% 100%

If we look at this graphically again, we immediately see how Brother dominates the Top 10 positions in UK online stores.

Brand Visibility and Popularity – Top 10

Inkjet Multifunction Printers – by Store

Brother’s strong position here is entirely at the expense of Hewlett-Packard. Even Epson has gained four percentage points overall at the expense of Hewlett-Packard while Canon retains stability in its position.

Brand Visibility and Popularity – Top 10

Inkjet Multifunction Printers – Overall Visibility
#1005 - Chart 4

To finish off, it’s good to know which models are making the headlines here.

As indicated before, Brother is still the only inkjet manufacturer to have an A3 inkjet AiO in its line-up, including one four-function model (MFC-6890CDW) with twin paper feeds, duplex printing capability (A4 only, sadly), reasonably high capacity individual ink cartridges and both wired and wireless network interfaces – a real business workhorse.

Brother MFC-6890CDWA3 four-function Brother MFC-6890CDW

In fact, in the key store that caught my interest in the first place, the A3 MFC-6490CW is ranked number two in the listing! Following on in 4th place was one of the previous generation standard A4 models (MFC-490C), with one of the latest generation A4 models at no.6, MFC-5490CN, but another A3 model (MFC-5890CN) comes in at no. 7. Then we’re back to another standard A4 model (MFC-297C) for eighth place.

This makes five Brother models in the Top 10, two of which offer A3 printing! To skip over the Top 10 barrier, another A3 model (MFC-6690CW) is found close behind in twelfth place.

Emphasising the significance of business-specific inkjet AiOs in today’s environment, three of the remaining five models are Hewlett-Packard Officejets and a further three Officejets follow on in the 10-20 rankings. Equally business-oriented, the remaining two models in the store’s Top 10 are Epson BX models.

Furthermore, in the store that ranks nine of Brother’s models in its Top 10 most-visible, only four are the latest generation but three of those are A3 models, underlining just how significant A3 is seen to be as an attraction for small business.

So, Brother has succeeded in scooping a massive proportion of inkjet AiO visibility in the UK. Can we now see Brother’s share of unit sales increase to present a serious challenge for the number one position?

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