From $5 meals to real-estate steals to discounted new wheels, the slumping economy has provided US consumers with at least one benefit: great deals.
Businesses from restaurants to car dealers are responding to the recession by offering all sorts of “incentives” to boost sales—and this industry is no exception. The current batch of promotional offers by manufacturers of wide-format printers can save you thousands of dollars if you’re in the market and know where to look.
“We want to do everything we can to help folks keep their businesses running during these troubled times,” says Randy Rickert, general manager of Mutoh America. “People are looking for quality, but they’re also looking for the smartest investment—along with the best deal. The more you can offer people in this economy, the more likely they’ll be to purchase.”
Buying now can also provide a print provider with distinct tax advantages, since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has officially extended the Section 179 Deduction increases through December 31, 2009.
“There have never been better tax advantages for purchasing capital equipment,” says Cara Shockley, marketing programs manager for HP Graphics Solutions Business, referring to the increased limits for Section 179, which allows businesses to deduct the full purchase price of qualifying equipment from their gross income (rather than writing it off through depreciation), encouraging businesses to add more equipment this year rather than waiting.
If you’re feeling encouraged—and thinking about buying—here are just a few of the current promotional offers out there:
• Trade in/trade up;
• Bundle packages;
• Free software;
• Special financing offers;
• Additional/extended warranties and recertification;
• Special pricing;
• Instant rebates; and
• Classes and consulting.
Let’s take a closer look at each. Keep in mind that the promotional offers noted throughout the text were available as of this writing (or as noted), but different offers may now be available from the same or other vendors; be sure to check the manufacturer’s website.
Trade in/trade up
Like a car (but often more costly), your used equipment can sometimes be “traded in” to the manufacturer when you’re ready to buy new.
“Many customers need the additional speed, capability, or capacity provided by our new digital printers to replace older equipment that still functions,” says Terry Mitchell, director of marketing for Fujifilm Sericol U.S.A. “We offer a trade-in program where the older equipment serves as the down payment … and reduces the capital cost of the new equipment.” Trade-ins apply not only to the company’s Acuity and Vybrant lines, but also to Inca digital equipment (for which Fujifilm Sericol is the exclusive marketer).
To help you purchase a new Mutoh ValueJet Printer, Mutoh America is currently running a promotion enabling you to trade in any printer and receive a $1000 discount on the purchase price of the ValueJet.
Meanwhile, at HP Graphics Solutions Business, you can trade up without trading in. With the company’s HP Designjet Cash In & Trade Up promotion, not only can you get up to $3000 cash back when you purchase or lease a qualifying HP Designjet, but a recent enhancement to the program allows you the option of keeping your trade-in product—giving you the extra advantage of adding new technology and production capacity, while still getting the promotional trade-in value for a new purchase.
Along those same lines, Roland DGA is offering existing customers of the company’s SolJet Pro III XC-540, VersaCamm VP series and AdvancedJet product line a free Pure Print Performance Upgrade featuring the company’s Roland Intelligent Pass Control technology.
EFI-Vutek also has upgrade options available. “If they’ve been loyal Vutek customers in the past, we’re not leaving them high and dry,” says Ken VanHorn, product marketing manager for EFI-Vutek. “Every product that we roll out has an upgrade path.” Customers can trade in equipment to move into the next level up machine, or the company can, for a minimal fee, upgrade your current machine in the field to expand its capabilities.
Special financing offers
In some cases, shop owners want to invest in new equipment but are having a tough time securing bank financing at a competitive rate. If you actually want to buy, the manufacturers want to help.
“Right now, it’s extremely difficult for a lot of people to either get financing, or they don’t want to tie up their cash for new equipment,” says VanHorn at EFI-Vutek. To help, the company is running programs through EFI Financial Services Group that enable customers who qualify up to six months of zero payments and, in some cases, an additional six months of half payments—giving them up to a year without having to make full payments. Says VanHorn, “We really tailor our programs to fit what our customers need at the time.”
Fujifilm Sericol U.S.A. is also offering more creative financing and making both external and internal financing options available to qualified customers. The company’s in-house finance group organizes long-term financing with external lenders at competitive lease rates, and in special cases, internally financed purchase contracts. Depending on the situation, they offer low- or no-down payment options, special rates, payment holidays and delayed payment terms. Says Mitchell: “Some customers are reluctant to invest in new equipment without the assurance of having a contract for work already in hand. Although this reduces the risk related to making new payments, print shops that continue to ‘get by’ … may lose jobs to competitors that do invest in new equipment. Our take is that delaying payments or reducing payments for the first six months helps provide an incentive to invest now rather than wait.”
Shockley at HP Graphics Solutions Business also advises resisting the temptation to “get by” with what you have because, “The companies that are improving their productivity, streamlining their operations and adding new technologies … will be in a position to leapfrog those that sit and wait.” To help get you into those new technologies, HP’s current special financing offers include 0-percent financing for lease or ownership plans, pay-as-you-grow plans with low initial payments, and an “acquire now, pay later” promotion with no payments for the first 90 days.
For customers specifically wanting to lease new equipment, Andrew Oransky, director of product management for Roland DGA, says the company is “continuing to offer very competitive rates through Roland Financial Services to help make it easy for [customers] to get into a lease.”
Along those same lines, Mutoh America is offering to make the first six months of payments to anyone wanting to lease a ValueJet 1304 or 1614 printer through Omni Leasing—up to a $3500 savings.
Bundle packages and free software
Some manufacturers are also offering bundle packages, enabling you to get the most bang for your buck.
“We have the unique capability to bundle a customer’s ink volumes into the purchase of a printer so they can best leverage their overall purchase dollars,” says Mitchell. “Several presses are bundled with software or extended contracts on ink as a ‘package’ that offers price discounts compared to purchasing separately.” The package is essentially tailor-made to each particular customer’s needs, and such packages are routinely available from Fujifilm Sericol.
Meanwhile, over at Roland, the company is proving that some things in life are free. Now through the end of June, if you purchase any VersaCamm SP or VP series printer/cutter, VersaArt RS series printer, GX-Pro series cutter, EGX engraver or MPX series impact printer, Roland will give you a free copy of CorelDraw Graphics Suite X4 with device registration.
Additional/extended warranties, recertification
If you do decide that now is the time to buy, some manufacturers are essentially offering “peace of mind”—extending warranty coverage, in some cases, at no cost to you.
Roland DGA, for instance, is currently running a limited-time promotional offer (expiring the end of June) that offers buyers of the SolJet Pro III and AdvancedJet printers an extra year of warranty coverage for free in addition to the standard Two-Year Trouble-Free Warranty.
“This will allow users to operate for a full three years without worrying about unplanned maintenance costs,” says Oransky. “All we require is product warranty registration [within 60 days of purchase] and the continued use of Roland inks.”
In addition, Roland has made extended warranties more affordable for existing customers. “We also recently dramatically lowered our extended warranty pricing so that users of two- or three-year-old printers can operate free from concerns over unscheduled maintenance costs,” says Oransky. “This is a permanent change, not a limited-time promotion, so it will help a lot of our users manage their businesses more effectively over the next 12 months without investing in new hardware.”
Also through the end of June, Mutoh America is offering a free second-year manufacturer’s warranty on the ValueJet 1304 and ValueJet 1614—a $2500 value. If you’re not ready to buy, Mutoh can also refurbish and re-certify your Falcon Outdoor, Falcon II Outdoor or Toucan LT printer—“a sensible approach for weathering turbulent economic conditions,” says Rickert. The two-day recertification process restores your printer to like-new factory specifications, saving you money and increasing productivity.
At EFI-Vutek, the company has rolled out its new Enhanced Service Program (ESP), an all-inclusive service contract for new and existing Vutek owners. ESP provides on-site, on-time preventive and emergency service with special provisions for print head replacement, Vutek ink stock, maintenance repair, and training. Says VanHorn: “ESP adds value to any Vutek printer investment by maximizing uptime and enabling better control over service cost.”
Special pricing and instant rebates
To encourage you to buy now, some manufacturers are offering special equipment pricing for a limited time.
Steve Urmano, marketing director for Mimaki USA,, says that his company will continue running show specials throughout 2009 at the numerous tradeshows they attend. For example, at the upcoming July 12-14 Sign-A-Rama franchise show in Las Vegas, the company will offer specials for a limited product range. All show prices stay in effect for 30 days after an event, and the discounts vary anywhere from 5 percent to an aggressive 30 percent off, depending on the machine. “I imagine we’re going to extend the JF Series flatbed promotion right through the year,” says Urmano. “We’ve been selling that machine around the $100,000 price point—normally it’s $120,000-$125,000.”
Over at Mutoh America, Rickert says you can save up to $4000 through June 30th on the ValueJet 1304 (on sale for $14,995, regularly priced at $18,495) and on the ValueJet 1614 (on sale for $18,995, regularly priced at $22,995).
At Roland, you can get cash back when you buy. Now through June 30th, the company is offering a $7300 rebate on its AdvancedJet AJ-740 74-inch printer, making the AJ-740 with rebate $39,995.
Classes can help provide the insight you need to succeed during these challenging economic times—and some of these classes are being offered at no charge to you.
Shockley at HP Graphics Solutions Business says the company is currently offering free education and consulting valued at thousands of dollars. “I think that sometimes, the perceived value of our educational and consulting offers is diminished by providing these services for free,” she says. “The reality is that we are truly providing high-value consulting and education to our customers and prospects. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking full advantage of these offers, and it may provide the right insight they need to enhance their business model or operations.”
Specific offers from HP include free business consultation and ROI analysis for HP large-format commercial production printers, including an evaluation of market opportunities, how to market your services, and a complete business plan. HP Learning Center offers free instructor-led classes designed to help large-format printing companies succeed, and HP’s Thrive campaign and free eBook, “9 Steps to Achieving Market Success,” provide customers and prospects with free educational content, including eBooks, Webinars, case studies, and other industry insights.
Mutoh America is also offering training. Its Professional Vehicle Graphic Design Training Webinars consist of highly specialized design training for as little as $49.95 a session or $166.95 for all four sessions. Classes are in session now, and new topics are introduced weekly to “offer people the ability to learn how to effectively make more money while mastering new skills,” says Rickert.
Deals down the line
“There are a lot of guys sitting on the sidelines saying, ‘I’m interested in that equipment and that’s what I want to buy¬—when I’m ready.’ We’re hoping our programs help to surface some of that pent-up demand for equipment that’s out there,” says Mitchell, adding that Fujifilm Sericol will continue to tailor its programs for customers based on their needs.
While many manufacturers are going above and beyond by running promotional offers to help customers weather these turbulent economic times—and will continue to do so—other manufacturers are of a different mindset.
“As a rule, we don’t engage in promotional offers, and we haven’t done so recently,” says Christopher Howard, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Durst Image Technology U.S. “We represent our products as the best solutions for imaging professionals in commercial and production environments. In virtually every case, you could say that our customers obtain a ‘hedge against recession’ through gains in output productivity and operational efficiency, as well as enhanced versatility … We have no plans to offer promotions or incentives beyond our usual efforts to work with our customers on the best financing solution, a trade-in of an existing Durst printer, or some other aspect, depending on the specific circumstances of the customer.”
Oransky at Roland has a different view. “We’re always looking for promotions that will help our users run their businesses more effectively and maximize their profits,” he says. “We realize that in the current economic climate, new equipment isn’t on everybody’s radar. Our goal is to keep users running and profitable through this period, so that when the time comes for new hardware, we’re their first choice.”
Still not ready to buy? Not to worry. Even though the Section 179 Deduction increases provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act expire at the end of the year, the deals from many of the manufacturers will likely keep on coming—as long as their customers, and the economy, continue to struggle.
Georgina K. Carson is a freelance writer based in Canton, Ohio; she specializes in business-to-business reporting.
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