It may have been billed as the 2022 Dealer Roadshow, but as John Sheehan stood front and center in a conference room filled with dealer principals at the Westin Michigan Avenue, the senior vice president of channel sales for Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America sounded more like a victorious politician on election night.
Speaking about the supply chain backlog that plagued many manufacturers and, in turn, their reseller partners, Sheehan magnanimously proclaimed that Sharp had product and those elusive semiconductor chips that make the MFPs purr. That has sustained dealers during the darkest days of the post-pandemic era.
“Sharp is a company that will be there when times are tough,” he told the audience. “We’ll stand behind you.”
Yes, Sharp’s distinction as being perhaps the lone manufacturer to endure through this period largely unscathed is hardly state’s secret. As a Chicago resident, Sheehan took the lead as emcee for Oct. 11-12 leg of the current roadshow tour that has (or will) visit Atlanta, Houston, Anaheim and Philadelphia. Representatives from approximately 30 dealers were on hand in the Windy City. The tour represents Sharp’s first significant gathering since its 2019 dealer conference in Las Vegas.
Sheehan welcomed a number of top execs to the stage on the first day, including Mike Marusic, president and CEO; Dave Dwyer, vice president of supply chain and operations; Shane Coffey, vice president of product development; James Robbins, president of Dynabook Americas; and Todd Bowman and Nick Iorfida from Sharp NEC Display Solutions of America. The first day was capped by a dealer panel that Sheehan held with Pulse Technology’s Chip Miceli, Eakes Office Solutions’ Mark Miller and Matt Wittbrodt of Image Tech (more on this shortly).
Marusic began with an overview of the manufacturer’s financial statement, joking it was “nice to see an EKG” as opposed to major fluctuations, and that the company enjoyed good profitability. He then launched into an area that has gained headlines—inventory trends—and noted Sharp didn’t slash inventory in the aftermath of COVID, due to the uncertainty the company felt lay ahead. Marusic pointed out that despite crippling inflation and recession predictions, Sharp is well positioned in the market and has taken additional share.
“We invested a lot of money in the dealer channel when COVID hit,” he noted.
Marusic added that many manufacturers didn’t respond to the supply chain threats until April of 2021. But Sharp chose its battles: it didn’t make fax boards for five months, “and no one noticed.” It also halted A4 production; the boards were redesigned and were “up and running 90 days later.” The bad news, at least for some manufacturers, is that Marusic expects the supply chain saga to stretch into the middle of 2023.
Of course, it helps to have the strong backing of Foxconn as a parent company, which opens the door to partnership opportunities with AI tech leaders such as Amazon and Microsoft. With diversification as a common theme throughout the show, having products such as the Dynabook and A/V solutions from NEC helped to underscore the shared commitment to investing beyond the MFP box. While no new products were announced, Marusic did provide an overview of the future A3 and A4 trajectories.
Speaking of diversification, it was the main topic of conversation for the end-of-the-day dealer panel. Miceli spoke of the opportunities against the backdrop of generations that are not beholden to paper. His reps are encouraged to look for opportunities in IT or A/V and to bring in subject-matter experts to help bring customers across the finish line.
“It’s an opportunity to get more business from existing customers,” he added.
Press and analysts were treated to a breakfast meeting with Sharp’s executives, where a wide range of topics was discussed. On the subject of production print, Marusic feels the field is too crowded for another player to emerge, although he wouldn’t rule out a partnership in the future. He believes there are “too many players” in the OEM ranks, and wouldn’t be surprised to see M&A activity (nothing’s cooking from Sharp’s point of view).
Confirming the anecdotal reporting around the industry, Sharp has added 20 net-new clients during the past two years, which takes into account the dealer has lost 10-15 clients to dealer acquisitions where the Sharp line was maintained. A host of regional sales heads, including Chris Johnson, Don Clark, Matt Euston and Jeff Alexander, provided short presentations, as did Bob Madaio, vice president of marketing. Attendees were then broken into owner, sales and service track workshops.