Sharp took the show on the road for their dealers across the country this fall with a five-city series titled “Opportunity Roadshow 2022.” Cities on the tour include Atlanta, Houston, Anaheim, and Philadelphia, as well as the Chicago stop, the second on the tour, for which they invited media and analysts along for the ride. The two-day event featured talk tracks on company updates and product roadmaps, laptop and AV opportunities and direction, and a dealer panel on diversification that summed up the focus of the other tracks. Also included were sales and marketing presentations focused on what Sharp offers its dealers, hands-on training on MFPs and laptops, and some roundtable discussions.

Sharp’s SVP of Channel Sales John Sheehan emceed the event and kicked off with a general introduction before turning the mic over to President and CEO Mike Marusic, who dug into the numbers, outlining financials, inventory, supply chain and market strategy.

Like all OEMs, Sharp has been affected by the Covid pandemic and supply chain woes. However, having a parent company that also happens to be the largest electronics manufacturer in the world eases the pain a bit. Foxconn aside, though, Marusic said the 8K Ecosystem — Sharp’s name for the group that encompasses its document business as well as Dynabooks and NEC displays — has been very strong, and Sharp has maintained steady market share growth in the office space. But what he really feels sets Sharp apart is its inventory and commitment to maintaining a consistent supply of product. When the pandemic hit, instead of slashing inventory they held onto it to ensure customer supply; intense use of analytics has helped them continue to navigate supply chain issues.

mike marusic with sharp inventory slide

The fact remains, though, that chip shortages and supply chain issues will continue — until at least 2023, with the MFP market the last to recover, Sharp predicts. Page volumes will decrease, and print revenue will remain flat. That’s why a big focus from Sharp at the meeting was on diversification. In addition to discussions on its A3 and A4 product lines, there was a great deal of focus on Dynabooks, AV solutions and displays, and the opportunities each presents.

With its displays, AV and meeting solutions and Dynabooks, Sharp is positioned to offer its dealers a well-rounded technology package for the hybrid office. While most revenues still come from the document hardware and supplies side, new product categories are growing, and are helping dealers grow as well, according to Sharp’s VP of Product Management Shane Coffey. Coffey noted that it’s harder for the customer to get rid of your copier if you’re also providing them with meeting room and computer systems and services. Don’t think of these as replacements for copiers, he said — think of them as anchoring and supplementing your document systems.

Coffey offered an example of the real value in a diverse line of products — not just additional hardware profit, but additional service profit as well. In a sample 50-person office supplied with four workgroup devices and a departmental MFP, 50 Dynabooks, and assorted display products like monitors and meeting room displays, there is additional opportunity for not just service profit, but licensing. “The Dynabook is like a master key,” said Coffey. “Once you tell someone you can sell them a laptop, the first thing they’re going to want is their own software. What do you want on your Dynabook?” Simply imaging the Dynabooks and providing recurring Microsoft 365 licenses for five years adds $81,000 in profit.

Coffey also discussed the opportunity in SYNAPPX licenses, remote management services, help desk services, and security — all of which can add up to a substantial profit increase. It’s not an automatic leap and no one is pretending it’s simple, but Sharp does offer training as well as sales and marketing and contracts support, discussed by Bob Madaio and Erica Calise in ensuing presentations. In the dealer panel, Chip Miceli of Pulse Technology, Mark Miller of Eakes Office Solutions and Matt Wittbrodt of Image Tech shared their challenges and successes in diversifying, and the methods they’ve used to adapt (for example, separating the technology division from the copier division with different sales reps for each). And while diversification is essential, they agreed, they are certainly still selling print solutions.

That means print hardware continues to be updated, and one specific focus area within that hardware is security. Sharp stressed the built-in security features in its latest releases that include BIOS checks and whitelisting (not-entirely-unspoken comparisons with HP were made — Sharp execs are confident in their devices’ capabilities), and the hands-on demonstrations focused heavily on the secure benefits on the devices.

Our take

OEMs were under pressure to help their dealers diversify even before the pandemic, but that pressure has increased exponentially. Sharp is therefore in a particularly good place — a 2018 acquisition of Dynabook, a March 2020 joint venture with NEC, and a late 2019 announcement of SYNAPPX meeting services to “address the workforce’s increased expectation of secure accessibility, ease of use and mobility” seem particularly well-timed. (“The new world is moving toward mobility, toward flexible workspaces,” said Marusic at the dealer meeting in October 2019. If only we’d known how fast … .) And although Sharp has not been unaffected by supply chain issues, it has fared better than some. Sharp continues to roll out new products and services in all areas of its business, and in general, has been excellent at managing expectations. Although this roadshow series is Sharp’s first larger hosted event, the Sharp team has been extremely visible at numerous events over the last year — Marusic even went straight from this roadshow to the BTA’s Ashville event ­— and they have not shied away from talks of supply chain issues and other concerns. In general, Sharp appears to be handling the channel’s rough waters well, and we look forward to seeing what their 2023 dealer meeting has in store.

amy weiss

is editorial director of BPO Media’s publications Workflow and The Imaging Channel, and senior analyst for BPO Research. As a professional writer and editor, she has specialized in the office technology industry for the last 20 years. Prior to that she worked in public relations and has a master's degree in communication arts.