Oki Data Says Goodbye To Retail

Two weeks ago the Mount Laurel, N.J.-based printer manufacturer pulled its products from Staples, drawing the curtain on its flirtation with large-format retailers, CEO Stewart Krentzman told Everything Channel.

In turn, the company is putting a greater focus on the channel and is turning out products tailored for specific markets that will be sold through the channel, he said. In addition, the company is looking to develop and enhance the Profit Ops channel program it launched a year ago.

Oki Data's exit from retail began last year when it ended its relationships with other office-centric retailers like Office Max and Office Depot, and it was painful for the company from a market-share perspective, Krentzman said. In two years Oki was able to become the second-best selling brand behind Hewlett Packard and had been growing through the recommendations of store sales associates.

However, as retail sales built brand-awareness that the company hoped would spill over and help it build its share of the SMB market, the results were disappointing. "It didn't happen to the level that we thought," he said.

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In order to increase profits, Oki Data turned to the channel. The new program is taking a very focused approach to building partnerships, and so far their approach is paying off. The company grew hardware sales through its Profit Ops program 350 percent last year. Oki works with partners to develop business plans and has quarterly meetings to align goals and assess progress.

"We do benefit if they're successful as a total company," Krentzman said. "Our business is overall very strong in terms of both revenue and expectations. It's about profitable market share. It's about making money."

And while he realizes that expected 350 percent growth this year is perhaps not entirely realistic, his ambitions for the company are still very high. "I would certainly like to see 100 percent-plus growth in the program," he said.

Oki Data's parent company in Japan has been supportive of its American division's decision to remove itself from retail shelves. "We're in business to support shareholders and we have to make money," he said. "They realize we're changing to a more profitable mix."

While it parted ways with Staples "as partners", he said, nothing is forever. "We could end up back there if it makes business sense."

For now, Oki is focusing on building ProfitOPs as it hosts its sales meeting in Texas this week, and the company is developing products targeted towards vertical markets like retail and healthcare. Oki Data will launch a food industry solution in May. "We have a phenomenal amount of products coming out this year," Krentzman said. "I think what we're doing next year is going to blow the market away."