In March millions of people scrambled to get set up to work, or learn, from home. That meant schlepping office supplies and workstations to a makeshift home office (aka the kitchen table), upgrading WiFi packages to increase bandwidth, and ordering essential items online. Kids were set up with laptops or tablets and low and behold… printers became a trending item again! Why? Suddenly we also needed a device that could print, copy, scan, and/or fax. Enter the resurgence of the multi-function printer.

At gap intelligence I am the data specialist for our printer categories and, as such, I was curious to know the who, what, where, when, and why on printer purchases. I see the weekly ebb and flow of in-stock availability across our panel of merchants with the data we capture, but I wanted to dig a bit deeper into the thought process of those who made purchases and how they narrowed down their choice. So what did I do? What any other person would do in the 21st century. I put an inquiry out on social media. Out of the 25 people who actually responded to a printer question, 10 people bought a printer within the last few months and all of the survey participants live in the greater San Diego, California area. Here’s what they had to say:

The Class Favorite

HP came out on top as the clear winner for most people as brand loyalty and in-stock availability both played major roles in the eyes of the consumer. Brother, Epson, and Canon all made noteworthy appearances, though, as some buyers were swayed away from HP in favor of more affordable consumables (ink and toner). Budgets ranged in price from about $150 – $400 but the bulk of the surveyed customers stayed within the $200-$300 price range, knowing that a slightly higher budget would get them all the features they wanted for a reasonable price. HP holds the majority of shelf share meaning, they had what customers wanted when they needed it = an easy grab and go purchase.

Location, Location, Location!

Almost every buyer surveyed had an immediate need for a printer, due to either working from home or printing out school work for their kids. Seventy percent of the customers surveyed said they snapped up a new device in mid to late March as schools started to shut down and California issued a statewide shelter-in-place order. Research factors included price and features, but also which merchants had products available for immediate pick-up or delivery. Not surprisingly, these customers bought from a range of retailers however Costco came out on top, as the location of choice. Shavkat Samatov, a colleague of mine, and survey participant, stated, “I don’t remember hunting and waiting for a better price with a promo. I just compared, and Costco had a better price.”

In retail, mid-July is prime back-to-school season. With businesses starting to slowly open back up, everyone is anxiously waiting to hear what the “new normal” will be when we physically move back into office and school buildings. That also means figuring out what needs to be purchased before the first day of school. For my kids, the 2020/2021 school year just started (August 3). The question will be, is everyone set up properly at home to resume school from home? If you happen to have school-aged kiddos like me, having a printer set up at home is a necessity for some school work and projects. My advice: buy that printer now. Stock levels are going back up and now is the time to start doing research and purchasing your perfect model, before this newly minted essential item finds itself, once again, in high demand.

For more than 17 years, gap intelligence has served manufacturers and sellers by providing world-class services monitoring, reporting, and analyzing the 4Ps: prices, promotions, placements, and products. Email us at or call us at 619-574-1100 to learn more.