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COVID-19 Driving Global Ink Shortage, Historic Congestion In Ports

COVID-19 Killing Ink Cartridge Business

Heading into the back-to-school season, many retailers are struggling to keep their shelves stocked with printer ink cartridges and laser toner.  COVID-19 is continuing to negatively impact supply chains across the globe, leading to a severe ink shortage.

Issues with freight seem to be the primary driver; containers are being held up on ships and in ports for months at time.  The impact of freight availability on the entire supply chain is truly unprecedented.  The global ocean market is being significantly disrupted because of operational capacity issues across global ports.  A confluence of factors driven by COVID-19 is the root cause: outbreaks affecting port operations, a container shortage, and lack of lane availability in global steam shipping lines.

When will things normalize?  At this time, industry experts agree that it won’t be any time soon.  In fact, the demand for shipping lanes will only increase as economies reopen and we near holidays.  Material supplies and finished products from Asian markets have been particularly hardest hit. 

According to Castle Ink CEO Lauren Elward, “the number of out-of-stock ink products has never been higher.”  Elward says sadly she isn’t even able to provide customers with reliable dates on when products are expected to be back in stock.  And even worse, COVID-19 has crippled the business; Elward estimates the revenue hit in 2021 to be 65%. 

COVID-19 has hit retailers that specialize in recycled and generic ink cartridges particularly hard.  Most products are coming from Asian markets and therefore the supply chain disruption has been disastrous for most businesses.  Conversely the supply of name brand replacements has fared much better since many of those product lines are made in Central America.  As a result, it's likely that many small and medium-sized ink cartridge retailers will be driven out of business by the pandemic.

About William Elward

Founder of Castle Ink, William Elward has 20 years experience in the printer industry. He's been featured on CNN Money, Yahoo, PC World, Computer World, and other top publications and frequently blogs about printers and ink cartridges. He's an expert at diagnosing printer issues and has published guides to fixing common printer issues across the internet. A graduate of Bryant University and Columbia's Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program, he's held various leadership positions at The College Board, Bankrate, Zocdoc, and Everyday Health. Follow him on Twitter at William Elward's Twitter Profile