Lexmark is keeping its two new channel chiefs off the radar.
Mike Johnson and David Baird both took the helm of the printer vendor’s channel in early January, during the company’s “quiet period” – or weeks before it announced its earnings – and subsequently were not available for interviews, according to Lexmark.
On Tuesday, the company reported its Q4 numbers, but a Lexmark spokesperson said the company still is not ready for the new channel chiefs to speak to Channel Insider. “I will contact you when we are ready for a meeting,” said Nancy Fraley, Lexmark spokesperson, in an e-mail.
What gives? Normally vendors want to introduce their channel chiefs and discuss their plans for the channel, be they new programs and services, or just keeping things status quo. After all, change has occurred within the ranks, and vendors want to ensure their channel partners that all is well.
Lexmark, it seems, isn’t ready to do that.
After an impressive product rollout last October that included monochrome and color-laser printers and both monochrome and color multifunction devices, Lexmark seemed poised to take on its competitors with renewed strength.
“People seem encouraged with the new product line,” said Mike Hicks, president of EBM, a Lexmark reseller and distributor based in Lexington, Ky. “I’m excited about their durability and capability. In the A4 area especially I see some good product to go to the market with.”
But Lexmark surprised many in November when it laid off channel chief Sharon Brindley, who led Lexmark’s U.S. channels and alliances since 2006. She had been cited as one of the channel’s most influential executives by trade publications, but although she was credited as an effective and capable channel leader, her tenure was marked by a consistent decline in Lexmark’s market position and channel ratings.
Brindley was one of 50 sales and marketing people to be laid off in November. In addition, sources say Lexmark took steps to eliminate much of its channel inside sales and technical support team, outsourcing those functions to a company in Cebu, Philippines.
Despite the cost-cutting measures, Lexmark’s earnings continued its downhill slide. The company reported its fourth-quarter profit was down a whopping 82 percent to $18.1 million from $99 million in the same period a year ago, while revenue in the quarter declined 17 percent to $1.08 billion from $1.31 billion a year ago. For the year, net income was down 20 percent to $240.2 million from $300.8 million, and revenue fell 9 percent to $4.53 billion from $4.97 billion a year ago.
And last week, Lexmark advised investors that it was restructuring, a move that includes eliminating 375 jobs. What that means for the channel is anybody’s guess.
“Mr. Johnson did call me this week to touch base and reach out,” Hicks said. “He wanted me to know he’s there should I need anything. He reached out to me and I’m assuming a few others – I can’t say how many channel chiefs give me a call on a regular basis.”