Epson's reinvigorated channel strategy has proved a winner in the Australian three-horse inkjet printer market race.
While Hewlett-Packard, Canon and Epson all retained their firm hold on the top three positions, International Data Corporation (IDC) reports Canon is no longer the silver medallist in the quarterly unit shipment competition, with Epson beating it by 0.4 per cent in the first quarter of 1999.
"After a change in channel strategy, which saw Epson pushing more of its products through mass merchants and a change to a more competitive price structure backed by advertising, Epson pushed Canon out of second position," IDC's market analyst Les Champkin said.
189,000 inkjet printers, worth $57.9 million, changed hands in the first three months of the year, with HP shipping 30.7 per cent of all units sold.
At 30 per cent, Epson was only slightly ahead of Canon, who accounted for 29.6 per cent of the local market.
Obviously the player best prepared to deal with the inkjet price decrease and product bundling trends, Epson was also a clear winner in the revenue stakes, beating HP by 1.8 per cent.
According to Karen O'Donnell, Epson's product manager for volume products, the IDC figures demonstrate a combination of "balanced approach to our channel" and an ongoing commitment to product improvement can work wonders in the cutthroat business of hardware sales. "We've been working on this for the last couple of years, putting together programs that work for our resellers - programs specifically catering for our channel partners," she said.
O'Donnell stressed channel relationships have always played an important role in Epson's strategy. Industry pundits now predict the company, which is growing its inkjet market at a phenomenal rate of 50 per cent per quarter, may well become the number one inkjet vendor in the country by the end of this year.
"Epson's first-quarter success is proof of how vital the channel is in a situation where three leaders are so close to each other in terms of their market share," said Champkin.