Is There a Future for Independent Office Supplies Dealerships?


Much has changed with the way commerce is conducted worldwide over the last 20 - 30 years, but it seems not much of that change has been embraced by the small to medium size independent office products and office supplies dealerships.

Of course, there are exceptions, but of the estimated 10-15,000 independent resellers in the office products vertical in the United States, there are many struggling to deal with headwinds impacting their prospects, not least that the overall size of the market for office products is now starting to decline.  n this environment, unless a business is increasing its market share, its revenues must be falling at least in line with the overall market.

Another significant headwind is the proliferation of low-cost off-shore compatible ink and toner cartridges finding their way to market through resellers swarming to the Amazon marketplace.  These cartridges are blending average sell prices down, so combined with the declining overall market, there's a double whammy on the top line – decreasing units and decreasing average sell price. Unless a business owner can reduce fixed costs at the same rate as the decline in the top rope, there's an unavoidable decrease in profitability.


The office products market in the United States has annual retail sales of $50B+, with at least 50% of these sales consisting of ink and toner cartridges.  o, despite the declining market, it's still a vast market, and there remains a lot of potential for small independent dealers to take market share.

For smaller dealers to position themselves to take market share, they must present themselves to their customers and prospects as professional and efficient enterprises. To accomplish this, they must leverage information technology and the Internet.

The Internet is the backbone of modern information technology, but how it's used and how businesses focus on the components that can make a difference that will determine whether or not underperforming companies can be transformed.


Despite being a mature industry, the office products vertical has excellent potential for small businesses to increase their market share. It's an anomaly that OEMs still control 80% market share in the $25B+ ink and toner category. Hen, it's a commonplace to purchase a new printer for $400 yet pay as much, or even more, for a set of four replacement cartridges, then something doesn't seem quite right.

It seems even less right when an online search results in thousands of aftermarket products that cost significantly less than the original OEM supplies.  t seems there should be ample opportunity for resellers to convert their customers and prospects from OEM brands to aftermarket alternatives.  n doing so, they can save their customers money and make decent margins on the sale, creating a win-win for themselves and their customers.

However, although his win-win potential is well known, converting customers from OEM brands to aftermarkets is still challenging.

One of the major reasons for this difficulty is down to the millions of OEM marketing dollars funneled into a branding message that strongly influences consumer’s mindsets about the dangers of third party compatible products.  My goodness, they may literally blow up and destroy a $400 printer!

The remanufacturing and compatible aftermarket manufacturers have come a long way since the first aftermarket cartridges entered the market in the 1980s. Yet, the OEMs marketing message still targets its customers with reminders of the toner "bombs" and ink "leaks" from the 1980s and 1990s.


The aftermarket needs professional marketing to help its customers understand and embrace the benefits of high-quality alternatives. Let's face it – if consumers are willing to pay less for auto insurance in return for acknowledging a repair may be carried with aftermarket parts or purchase generic drugs or store-brand groceries, then isn't it time the same consumer awareness and acceptance was accomplished for ink and toner?

For the acceptance of aftermarket office products to be increased, resellers have to develop their credibility and earn the trust of their prospective customers.  f this can be successfully created, then there will be a higher chance to convert a customer from OEM to aftermarket supplies.


Where's the first place a prospective customer will look before deciding whether or not to place any business with a new supplier? El all know it's by going online to rereviewebsites and social media accounts. Or this reason alone, these arplatformsrovide small independent businesses with the opportunity to present their knowledge and authority on their business and products, build their reputation, and establish trust in the market.

Suppose a customer prospect can see evidence that a reseller has credibility and authority within its influence. In that case, there's a greater likelihood that the option will place its trust in the reseller and eventually become a customer. This is not an overnight process, as nurturing a lead to become a customer takes time. However, if the online presence is built to achieve this objective, the resellers' chances of success are significantly improved.


The software tools enable a small business to build an information technology platform that puts it on a level playing field with much larger enterprises. Friendly, this platform has been created and deployed; small businesses can leverage their presence in local markets, flexibility, and faster decision-making to build a competitive advantage over their larger rivals.


1.  It's possible for small independent dealers to take market share in the office products vertical, but only if the necessary investments are made in deploying an information technology infrastructure required to compete efficiently with much larger companies and to provide the services and products customers demand.

2.  n doing so, the small business is simultaneously educated on how to do business in this Internet-dominated age.  t invests in an upgraded Internet presence and learns inbound digital marketing techniques that bring in new leads and new web traffic

3. once this requirement has been accomplished, the foundation for a significant business transformation is in place that should enable small businesses to take market share from their larger competitors and convert business from expensive OEM products to lower-cost, high-quality aftermarket alternatives.

4. Without a strong Internet presence and e-commerce capability, small businesses will not survive.

5. accomplishing these objectives represents a business transformation and will likely create a healthy outlook for growth and loyal, satisfied customers.

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