Allegra Reno — Little Puppy, Big Kennel
Far from the bright lights of Las Vegas, just north of Nevada’s capital of Carson City, lies a testament to the power of four-color general commercial printing. . .and it’s a franchise establishment, no less.
Allegra Print & Imaging has more heart than press firepower, but the Reno, NV-based facility remains undaunted in the face of heavy competition. Allegra Reno, as it is informally known, is a contradiction by nature. The franchise shops under the Allegra Network umbrella—Allegra Print & Imaging, American Speedy, Instant Copy, Insty-Prints, Signs Now, Speedy Printing and Zippy Print (in Canada)—are predominantly quick print shops offering one- and two-color offset printing. Only 15 percent of the chain’s 600-plus facilities boast four-color capabilities, and Allegra Reno is one of them.
“We added our five-color press in 2005 to establish a niche of short- to mid-size runs to compete with the old dogs, who ruled the market but were very slow to understand the need for speed,” states Bruce Knowlton, director of sales and marketing for Allegra Reno. “Through aggressive advertising and community involvement, we have established ourselves as a reliable and high-quality printer.”
Allegra Reno posted a relatively modest $2.3 million in sales during 2006, but the tally represented a 20 percent growth rate. That’s a significant burst for a company with just 15 employees and 9,300 square feet of operating space—a shop that only 10 years ago installed its first two-color press.
Allegra Reno turned the corner in 2001 when it obtained a four-color Heidelberg Speedmaster 52-4. Previously, the printer had used a two-color Ryobi 522 for four-color jobs, but reached the limits as to what it could accomplish. According to J.C. Weir, owner of Allegra Reno, the path to increasing sales volume was pretty clear.
“I felt the market for standard, small-format, quick print-type items was declining. Letterhead and forms orders were going down, so I didn’t view that as a growth opportunity,” Weir says. “On the other hand, I noticed there was strong demand for four-color work in our area.”
In 2005, Weir acquired a Heidelberg SM-52-5P+L sheetfed perfector with coater. “The five-color Speedmaster with coater has been a big reason behind our growth. The coater allows us to turn jobs very quickly, which is an important factor for customers. Being able to take product off the press and get it out the door in a couple of hours is a dramatic improvement over waiting for ink to dry.”
The press has enabled Allegra Reno to buoy its product and service offerings, which now includes brochures, stationery, reports, manuals, sell sheets, catalogs, business cards and postcards. In addition to the Speedmaster 52, the firm touts a two-color Heidelberg Printmaster 46-2 and a 19˝ Kluge foil press. On the digital press/copier end, Allegra Reno has a Xerox Nuvera 120, a DocuColor 8000 and a recently added DocuColor 250.
Allegra Reno has gone deep in its relationship with Heidelberg, picking up a full Prinect workflow system, a fully automated Prosetter 52 two-page CTP system, as well as a new Polar 78X cutter and Stahl B 20-4/4 folder. It is the willingness to invest in new gear that has enabled the company to break away from the quick printer pack and elbow its way onto the four-color commercial printing table.
“It’s a big plus for our salespeople to tell customers that our work is produced on the finest equipment available,” Weir says. “When we bring prospects in for plant tours, it’s impressive. Heck, even I’m impressed. We’ve become experts in the quick turnaround, short run, commercial color printing market.”
Allegra Reno’s expertise is impressive to its client base, which includes the casino, manufacturing and non-profit sectors, along with real estate, ad agencies, health care and colleges/universities. Knowlton notes that casinos present great opportunities, but are highly price-sensitive. With time being an issue, Allegra Reno added a second shift to address the uptick in demand.
“We’re currently focusing on manufacturing accounts,” Weir explains. “In the past, this has been the playground for print brokers, but with our reputation, I believe a lot of doors will open for us.”
Weir, too, has opened a lot of doors since entering printing. Once upon a time, he was a mining engineer in the coal industry. Looking for a change, he enrolled at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, emerged from its business school with an MBA and decided he wanted to be his own boss. The printing industry, he felt, was relatively affordable and manageable in terms of ramping up a business.
A few Iteks and a couple of Ryobis later, Allegra Reno evolved from quick printer into copying and, finally, the four-color realm. Along the way, Weir augmented his offerings with a full-service direct mail center.
Bread ’n Butter Color
The full-color work is Allegra Reno’s bread and butter, hence the two outside sales reps pounding the pavement. The key is marketing the company as a four-color printer, since much of the perception of Allegra Reno is that of a quick print shop.
“The traditional quick print model of people walking in and buying stuff does not work in the four-color market. You’ve got to promote and sell your capabilities,” Weir says. “The people who buy four-color printing also have other outside salespeople calling on them, so you need to be competitive.”
Another aspect that has enabled Allegra Reno to be competitive on a local level is its strong ties to the community. Knowlton is the education co-coordinator for Business Networking International (BNI) in the Reno/Sparks area and networks extensively through community and professional organizations.
“Growing a business is not about waiting for customers to walk in your door, but going out and building relationships with them,” he says.
There’s a lot to be said for delivering on those relationships. It is what enables these small fish to swim with the sharks.
“If we do our job and provide a real service to customers, ultimately, we will be successful,” Weir concludes. PI