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Visioneer outmuscles HP in scanner sales

Hewlett-Packard's scanner sales slow as it focuses on scanner-printer-fax combos while Visioneer's Colorado 2400 runs away with the low end of the market.

Hewlett-Packard's image may be fading in the retail scanner market.

HP scanner sales have grown modestly this year, while its retail inventory has soared, with more than 11 weeks of product sitting on store shelves, according to market researcher NPD Intelect. At the same time, rival Visioneer's sales quadrupled in February from a year earlier, thanks largely to a new, low-cost model.

HP didn't exactly start the year off on sure footing, with-- according to NPD Intelect--eight weeks of inventory sitting on dealers' shelves. But by the beginning of March, that had swelled to 11 weeks, more than double the industry average, with no sign the situation had improved by the end of the month.

"One of the reasons HP's inventory is building up is that they're getting their butts kicked by the new Visioneer PrimaScan Colorado 2400U," NPD Intelect analyst Steve Koenig said. "This scanner gives consumers a lot of functionality for a little price."

A removable lid for scanning books, a good software bundle and excellent resolution for the money make the Colorado scanner "a solid solution for the price," Koenig said. The Colorado sells for an average price of $58. Typically, these features would cost $40 more from competitors, he said.

"Visioneer seems like they're focused on the low end of the scanner market, whereas HP is all over the place," said ARS analyst Duane Smith. "HP lately seems to be pushing all-in-one" machines that combine fax, scanner and printer functions.

Visioneer distributes the PrimaScan scanner in the United States for parent company Primax.

The average scanner inventory is about five weeks, which is Canon's level, while Visioneer has about six weeks of stock in stores, NPD Intelect determined. Visioneer also is hurting Canon, which saw retail scanner sales plummet nearly 60 percent year over year in February.

HP's problem isn't just increased competition but inventory management, Koenig emphasized. HP's inventory in February was 50 percent higher than a year earlier.

Looking at what retailers sold vs. what stock they have on hand reveals part of HP's problem, Koenig noted. Retailers sold about 23 percent of the HP scanners on hand in February, compared with 44 percent for Canon and 47 percent for Visioneer.

Overall, the retail scanner market in February grew 11 percent year-over-year. Interestingly, HP sales were consistent with the overall industry, with year-over-year sales growth of about 10 percent. But Visioneer's sales surged a whooping 250 percent, contributing to Canon's 56-percent retail drop.

Year to date, retail scanner sales growth is about 5 percent, according to NPD Intelect. Canon year-to-date retail scanner sales fell 36 percent, HP rose 23 percent, and Visioneer shot up 92 percent.

In February Visioneer had 46 percent of the retail scanner market, up from 15 percent a year earlier, according to NPD Intelect. HP had about 29 percent market share, nearly level with February 2000. Third-ranked Canon had 9 percent share, down dramatically from 22 percent a year earlier.

"In terms of market share, Visioneer clearly is soaking it up," Koenig said.

"Visioneer were the first ones to really push the one-touch button for scanning, which has been hugely popular," Smith said, adding that the digital camera memory-card readers Visioneer has added to some scanners have also been popular with consumers.

Visioneer has the two top-selling scanners at retail, according to NPD Intelect. The Visioneer 4400USB, which sold for an average $74, had 20-percent market share. The PrimaScan Colorado 2400 captured 13-percent share.

"That scanner really put the hurt on HP," Koenig said.

The highest selling HP scanner, the 3300, sold for $79 and captured 7.5-percent market share.