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Samsung Laser Printer Goes To School

NEW YORK — Samsung executives are attempting to make a back-door entrance into retail with the company’s new $199 laser printer by first proving it is a hot seller with e-tailers and through university bookstores.

Samsung knows its higher-end home office products have played well with resellers and VARs for the past few years, but also realizes its brand name does not have much pull with retailers.

This makes it almost impossible to compete with Hewlett-Packard and Brother, which dominate the consumer laser category, and pry the ML-4500 laser printer onto the store shelves of chains such as OfficeMax and Circuit City, said Harry Otto, Samsung’s director and general manager, office automation division.

So Samsung is pinning its sales hopes on making the printer a hot seller on college campuses and online this fall.

Samsung customer research indicated that students think highly of its brand, Otto said, and are interested in buying a low-cost laser printer for their schoolwork. Samsung’s line of thought is that once sales take off in the bookstores, retailers will want to get in on the action and will beat a path to Samsung’s door, said Jay Geiser, a regional sales manager for the company’s office automation division.

Fry’s Electronics is the only brick & mortar retailer carrying the printer, which started shipping in mid-August.

Samsung is working with a distributor to place the printer in college stores across the country, and it will support that effort with a large advertising campaign, on-campus demonstrations and a website.

“I think the education channel will be the spot to make our mark,” said Geiser, adding that the $199 price point will help the laser printer category reach the home and small office consumer in much the same way eMachines’ inexpensive PCs helped grow the computer category.

Otto added that the same holds true for online sales. “It is so hard for us to get onto the shelf as a newcomer, so e-tailers give us that opportunity,” he said. Samsung has no immediate plans to sell the printer directly.

The ML-4500 has an eight-page per minute print speed, 2MB of memory and 600 dpi print resolution. Samsung is planning a Macintosh version for release this fall. It will carry a $249 suggested retail price, but unlike other products designed for Apple’s computer line, the new printer will not sport any colors.