Trade Printers : Rising Web Lifts BoatsOctober 2011 By Erik Cagle
The Internet has proven to be something of an elixir, a cure-all tonic for trade printers that were either suffering or stagnating. It has played a large role in the growth, perhaps even salvation, of some trade firms. We’ve encapsulated three notable trade printers, along with a look at what’s fueled their fire and provided confidence in the foreseeable future.
2010 Sales: $30 million
Dan Doron worked ridiculously long hours in order to build a $50,000 nest egg with which to start a business. He opened a copy shop in 1991, practically working around the clock to make success a reality between operating the business and guerilla marketing efforts after hours—leaving business cards and flyers on automobiles.
Doron generated a respectable $250,000 after his first few years, but that turned into his ceiling for the better part of a decade. In 1999, he purchased a four-color press, expanded nationally via a Web presence to serve the trade, and promptly lost about half of his business following 9/11. But he soon saw the value of gang-run printing.
“Gang-run printing had started, but we pioneered the next level of it,” explains Doron. “Instead of limiting it to postcards and business cards, we started doing letterhead, brochures and envelopes...pretty much everything else. By doing that, we were able to cut overhead and costs dramatically.”
Since then, the company has enjoyed solid year-over-year growth, and Doron states that Zoo Printing now boasts one of the most expansive product lines in the trade (prime products are business cards, postcards, brochures, catalogs and vinyl banners), enabling it to become a one-stop shop for customers. Several other factors have spurred growth:
• In 2007, Zoo embarked on a branded Website program, backed by millions of dollars in development, which has so far yielded 1,500 owners, a figure Doron expects will reach 5,000 in the near future.
• Large-format printing, in the form of vinyl banners, vehicle wraps and trade show graphics, was introduced in 2008.
The 200-employee operation set up shop in Louisville, KY, in 2010, and Zoo has tripled its customer service ranks. A new facility is slated to open in New Jersey during 2012, followed by new plants in Texas and Florida on the horizon. The idea is to be able to provide clients nationwide with next-day standard delivery.
Doron firmly believes Zoo Printing—given its present rate of growth and bold initiatives—could reach the $100 million mark in annual sales during the next five years. It’s projected to hit $35 million for 2011.
“They are ambitious goals, but between our people and the systems, and by reinvesting back in the business and focusing on our core competencies, it will allow us to reach those goals,” he says.
2010 Sales: $15.5 million
Jordan Finn was a CFO numbers man doing business in Florida, but longing to move to Greenville, SC, the hometown of baseball immortal Shoeless Joe Jackson. Initially, he was to take over the obviously named Index Tab and turn it around. In the process, Finn also scooped up a small, four-color shop called Cross Country Printing and took his business online to retail in 2003.
Three years later, Finn scaled back to focus on print resellers, brokers, designers, etc., via gang-run printing.
Index Tab still exists, selling locally only, but Growll.com now stretches coast-to-coast, backed by an arsenal of 150 employees. The Heidelberg-dominated shop now exceeds $15 million in annual sales of postcards, business cards, brochures, booklets and rack cards. Business cards represent Growll’s sweet spot; it offers 1,000 two-sided cards for $15.
“You know that you’re doing business cards well when customers come back to you and give you a shot at doing something else,” notes Sam Vignjevic, vice president of e-commerce sales and marketing for Growll.
Direct mail has become another hot spot for Growll. An automated direct mail offering on its Website, tied in to postcards, allows clients to upload and approve their artwork, pay for postage, upload their lists and handle the postal acknowledgement form (PAF). Growll’s customer service team has earned its mailpiece design professional (MDP) certification through the U.S. Postal Service.
A sheetfed offset and digital printer, Growll installed an HP Indigo 7000 at the start of 2010, according to Vignjevic, and recently acquired a pair of high-speed, black-and-white copiers. But the biggest investment—Growll’s Website platform, is on tap for a complete overhaul by next January. Branded Websites will be a large part of that initiative.
“It’s a very robust, very flexible solution that we’ll be bringing out in January,” he says.
According to Vignjevic, customer service is the true variable that sets Growll apart from its contemporaries. When clients call in from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., they will speak with a CSR who is “empowered to resolve your issue,” he points out. The ability to remedy issues and keep customers happy is what has augmented Growll’s retention rate.
Colour Concepts (dba Partner Printing)
2010 Sales: N/A
Mark Sears cut his teeth in the publishing industry, having started a regional house dedicated to the real estate industry. The business flourished and Sears sold the firm to his largest customer, then used the proceeds to open a prepress company, Colour Concepts (CCI). He found even more success after debuting a large- format printing company in Las Vegas, servicing major casinos, transportation firms, outdoor malls and other gaming concerns.
For Sears, however, the big picture included Web-to-print solutions, so he sold the Vegas shop and ushered in Partner Printing, which has its headquarters in Riverside, CA, and a second plant in Elk Grove Village, IL. Partner Printing manufactures the full gamut of trade printing products, namely cards of all sorts (business, postcards, promotional, greeting, rack), along with brochures, catalogs, calendars and envelopes, among other things.
CCI/Partner Printing, which boasts a workforce of 180 employees, relies on offset, digital and wide-format printing processes. The firm plans to parlay its technology into providing web printing, labels, promotional products, textiles, forms, stamps and engraving, magnetic products (signs, cards and stickers) and blank/printed envelopes. It offers same-day turnaround on its most popular products, with standard turns of 24 to 48 hours.
The company has invested considerable capital during a very difficult period, according to Sears, company president. “The past two years, CCI has built and moved into two new facilities, added more than $10 million in additional equipment, and continues to spend additional dollars on software development and enhancements for our trade partners,” he says.
Additionally, the firm has embarked on a new initiative, the FPO Network, a new social media platform built on viral marketing strategies and network marketing principles to create non-traditional revenue streams for its trade members, according to Sears. All members have access to sell and promote FPO, with revenue opportunities including licensing, routing fees and other income derived from FPO.
“Our proprietary and patent-pending intelligent routing system will provide opportunities to our trade members to better service their customers and grow their bottom lines,” Sears explains. “Through consolidation and networking, our technology will provide a means to help customers manage their business and create a touchless workflow to improve efficiencies and reduce costs.
“By providing an open storefront to help our dealers sell their own products and services—in addition to connecting our dealers to their vendors and streamlining their work—the FPO Network and its technology will enhance the way business is done.”
Sears adds that by integrating services and content, the FPO Network will enable printers to tap into new markets of consumers and offer a broader array of products and services. Going forward, Sears’ goals include offering next-day ground shipping to most destinations, opening non-traditional revenue streams and engaging the design community to drive more revenue streams to its dealer network. PI