With less than two months to go, Black Friday will quickly arrive to officially kick off the 2016 holiday shopping season. While shoppers are most-commonly looking for deals on gifts and big ticket items, some customers may view the holiday season as an optimal time to purchase consumer- and small office-oriented all-in-one printers at a discounted price. Printer vendors and retailers leverage this key shopping period to capture demand, often launching holiday-specific burst SKUs, increasing advertising activity, and aggressively competing for each customer’s business both in-store and online.

Black Friday 2016 Best Buy

What’s the deal with those stacked printers?

Those giant floor stacks of printers are intentional and effective at quickly moving units. Printer hardware manufacturers and retailers utilize the holiday shopping period as an avenue to introduce new SKUs that typically ship with large short-term inventories and low prices. Retailers stack these up and customers generally clear them out within weeks. In 2015, five personal- and SOHO-oriented AiOs launched as Black Friday-specific SKUs that were intended to sell out quickly. These models were each store-exclusive versions of an existing configuration, meaning that these devices were identical to already-available products (often phase out models) but included a unique product name to eliminate the threat of comparison shopping.

Vendors and merchants are expected to employ a similar strategy once again this year, with Black Friday-specific burst SKUs likely to pop up at Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart. Many of these chains are likely to sell renamed devices to combat showrooming and protect the value of primarily printer configurations. HP is no stranger to partaking in this strategy, and similar to HP’s back-to-school efforts, the vendor is expected to launch holiday-specific configurations based on the DeskJet 3630 series and possibly its new DeskJet 3700 series.

HP DeskJet 3700 Series

What advertisements are expected?

One of the best ways to forecast upcoming promotional activity is to look back at promotions during the same period in previous years. In 2015, many of the most-discounted items were phase out printers that needed to clear due to ongoing product refreshes. Based on recent history, more than 1,000 printer advertisements will be published in retailer circulars during the upcoming holiday shopping season, and these ads will primarily target inkjet AiOs.

This year, every major printer manufacturer is expected to offer aggressive discounts on at least one model within its inkjet AiO portfolios (again, likely to be phase out models). These devices include:

  • Brother MFC-J485DW
    ($99 ERP, <$50 net price)
  • Canon PIXMA MX492
    ($199 ERP, <$50 net price)
  • Canon PIXMA MX922
    ($199 ERP, <$70 net price)
  • Canon PIXMA MG6820 series
    ($149 ERP, <$70 net price)
  • Epson Expression Premium XP-630
    ($149 ERP, <$80 net price)
  • HP Envy 4520
    ($99 ERP, <$60 net price)

In addition to the aforementioned inkjet devices, the 2016 holiday shopping season may see an increased focus on mono laser AiOs. Given that new models are on their way to retailer shelves, Canon’s entry-level mono laser AiO portfolio is expected to see heavy promotions within the coming months. These devices are part of the vendor’s imageCLASS MF21X and imageCLASS MF22W series and will likely be offered with discounts of between 40% and 50%.

What will retailers do?

Retailers will continue to aggressively compete for business this holiday season. As noted above, these merchants will stack large inventories of sell-fast printers, while decorating their stores with holiday messages and displays. These activities have been a major part of each retailer’s strategy for as long as anyone can remember, but these merchants also know that they must quickly adapt to the dynamic shopping habits of today’s customers.

Given that a growing proportion of customers will look for deals on the internet, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers will likely improve their online strategies this year in an effort to attract these online shoppers. The majority of retailer competitiveness will emerge in the form of price match guarantees, flash deals, free shipping, and extended return periods. In addition to these activities, the name of the game for many retailers is to capture sales as early as possible in an effort to gobble up consumers’ holiday spending budgets before they’re spent at a competitor (similar to how many stores begin Black Friday on Thanksgiving). As early as next week, retailers will begin to launch online holiday campaigns (Best Buy kicked off its 2015 holiday campaign on October 6), and many chains already have landing pages created for Black Friday 2016.

Best Buy 2016 Black Friday Online Landing Page
Image Credit: bestbuy.com

Similar to 2015, Best Buy is expected to once again offer free shipping, continuing its departure from requiring customers to spend $35 to quality for free shipping. Walmart is also anticipating heavy online traffic, and the retailer last year announced that it would allocate $2 billion toward e-commerce investments. Since its one-year-old statement to invest in online channels, Walmart worked to improve its mobile shopping app, acquired Jet.com, and increased its marketplace offerings.

Office Depot, which offers among the most promotions during the holiday shopping season, also has a Black Friday placeholder on its website. Office Depot is likely to offer special deals during certain days of the week. The retailer chose Monday and Friday deals on its online storefront last year. The office supply store is also expected to once again use its “gear up for gifting” and promote its Elf Yourself app, which allows users to make videos of themselves and their friends dancing as elves. While dancing as an elf (or being a Mensch on a Bench) won’t put Office Depot on top in terms of holiday revenue, the retailer at the very least can tout that nearly half a billion users have downloaded the Elf Yourself app since 2012.

The common theme between each retailer’s strategies is its e-commerce push. It’s no secret that Amazon.com is gravely hurting brick-and-mortar sales, and retailers will continue to grow their online and in-store efforts to combat this threat. While many of these chains will be unable to compete on price via their online stores, these retailers at the very least should be expected to price-match major competitors that include Amazon.com.

So, will customers add printers to their holiday shopping lists?

In general, when people think of holiday shopping, printers are not and will not be top-of-mind in the vast majority of cases, but consumers still need them. Bargain shoppers will look for deals as the year comes to a close, and similar to last year, it is expected that manufacturers will offer unusually-low prices on phase out models while retailers will look to new ways to capture this demand.