Are sales receipts and coupons changing? Will there one day be a paperless, non-chemically coated alternative to reviewing our expenditures or redeeming that 50 cent discount? Believe it or not, that day may be on the horizon.
However, eliminating thermal paper from point of sale (POS) transactions will not be an easy task; the well entrenched thermal paper industry has years of investment and future sales at stake.
With a world market demand of over 1 million metric tons and an estimated producer market value of 1.9 billion U.S. dollars, thermal printing dominates our receipt world. Add an annual growth rate between 6-8% (even higher for Chinese market at 15%) and it is not surprising that thermal paper producers around the world compete fiercely to carve out the biggest market shares possible.
Just how fierce is this market? In 2007, Appleton, a U.S. thermal paper manufacturer filed petitions with the U.S. authorities alleging that the Chinese government was subsidizing exports of thermal paper used to print coupons and sales receipts. (By subsidizing these exports, Chinese thermal paper could compete at price levels not sustainable by other producers). In addition, Appleton also alleged that the same type of thermal paper was being dumped by China and Germany in the U.S.
According to Paper Age, ÒDumping occurs when a foreign producer sells goods in the United States at prices below those at which it sells in the country of origin or at prices lower than the cost of productionÓ. In 2008, the U.S. government announced its decisions against China and Germany and applied Òimport fines and/or dutiesÓ on both Chinese and German imported thermal paper. At the time of the legal action, German and Chinese imports alone valued more than $ 200 million dollars. This is a lot of money being spent on thermal paper for coupons and sales receipts!!
As mentioned in one of my previous articles referring to the thermal paper industry and cited in Printweek.com (Feb. 2008) Òenvironmental issues are shaking up the sector and helping to drive technological developmentsÓ. Innovators such as IBM, Microsoft, and NCR (National Cash Register Company) along with several smaller, entrepreneurial firms are promoting various ÒgreenerÓ alternatives to printing coupons and sales receipts.
While NCR is still marketing thermal printers to retailers, it is marketing double-sided thermal printing. Just this summer, Sainsbury (a large European supermarket chain) was Òawarded the Business Commitment to the Environment, Environmental Leadership Award 2009 for being the first European retailer to roll out NCR-RealPOSª Two-sided Thermal Receipt Printers, which print on both sides of the paper simultaneouslyÓ. Sainsbury has 823 stores in the UK. Double-sided printing will reduce SainsburyÕs thermal paper usage by about 45% saving over 502,000 paper rolls annually (and that is with only half of its stores in the new POS program).
Wal-Mart, a retailer that has taken great strides to operate in a more environmentally sustainable manner, is testing double-sided thermal printing. Given that Wal-Mart has over 757,750,000 customers monthly, imagine the quantity of trees that would be saved if Wal-mart reduces the size of its receipts!
For those of us who do not like receiving, organizing, and disposing of the loads of receipts and coupons we are given, double sided receipts are good news. But even better is the knowledge that digital technology can totally eliminate paper receipts. So, what new advancements in digital technology are available? Stay tuned; this information will appear in my next posting…
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References for this article were obtained from:
www.sriconsulting.com, “SCUP Report- Imaging Chemicals and Material, Fink, et al, Novemberf 2007″, www.paperage.com, U.S.Department of Trade/International Trade Commission, FACT SHEET, “Commerce Finds Unfair Dumpinmg and Subsidization of Light Weight Thermal Paper form the People’s Republic of China and Germany, www.printweek.com, Feb. 2008 , retailsolutionsonline.com, “Sainsbury’s NCR Scoop Top UK Environmental Award”, July 16, 2009 www.environmentalleader.com,”Sainsbury Saves at Checkout With Two-Sided Recipt Printers”, July 25, 2008, www.dogwoodalliance.org, “All those slick rceipts tracking all those purchases really do add up”, www.retailwire.com, “The Incredible, Growing Sales Receipt”, Sept. 14, 2009.