VISTAPRINT — SMALL ORDERS MEAN BIG BUSINESS
VistaPrint enjoys a high level of auto-mation through the cutting process. Here, a Polar cutter dices up business cards.November 2006
VistaPrint, of Lexington, MA, is neither fish nor fowl. Only 33 percent of its revenues are actually spent on print production. More than 34 percent is earmarked toward direct marketing. Another 11 percent is ticketed toward technology advancement.
You call this a printer? Where’s the sales staff? VistaPrint doesn’t have one. Heck, it doesn’t even deal with print buyers. Yet, the company posted sales of $152 million for its latest fiscal year, a 67 percent increase over the $90 million it did the previous year.
How can this be a printer? Where’s the customer support staff? A call center in Montego Bay, Jamaica? What if something goes wrong with the document files? You’ve got to be pulling my leg.
Cutting Out Hassles
OK, you get the picture. There is little to no prepress or pressroom hassle. There aren’t any contract proofs or press checks. No vertical markets to target. VistaPrint doesn’t churn out a single product in the United States, either; its two manufacturing facilities are based in Canada and The Netherlands.
What is appalling to anyone who hangs his/her shingle as a commercial printer. . .VistaPrint really has no competition. But it does have a fleet of eight MAN Roland 700 series sheetfed offset presses—all located with CTP units next to them—and 15 HP Indigo digital machines. So, if it’s not a printer, VistaPrint certainly has found a third dimension to its liking.
“Our model doesn’t work for the majority of the printing industry,” notes Robert Keane, chairman, president and CEO of VistaPrint. “We’ve been able to take traditional printing equipment and use it in a very different way. We’ve taken the idea of focused specialization to an extreme.”
Truth be known, VistaPrint is not a commercial printer. It is not a business-to-business operation per se, either. But it’s found a gold mine of a niche.
Founded by Keane in Paris back in 1995, VistaPrint is now built around a template-based Web ordering tool for small businesses and consumers. Keane’s foresight was a masterstroke: serving very small and owner-run operations requiring business cards, brochures, letterhead, envelopes, presentation folders, data sheets, note cards, rubber stamps and even holiday greeting cards.
While previously working as an independent consultant for Microsoft’s Publisher desktop publishing group, he quickly saw the value in a template-driven model.