Premier Press: Embracing The Spirit of Convergence
Premier Press is a company that never stands still. It embraced the concept of convergence long before it became an industry buzzword, evolving during the past 45 years from a small shop with a single pressman to a 170,000-sq.-ft. facility today in Portland. Ore., with more than 140 team members. The one constant has been a dedication to customer service and a spirit of innovation that has allowed the company to excel in managing projects from initial concept all the way to distribution and warehousing.
As part of that mission to serve customers across the entire gamut of a project, “It was natural for us to move into other services,” Juli Cordill, managing director and CMO, says. Her father, Arnold Wheeler, founded the company as Pep Printing, and today it remains a family business. “We are always pushing the bar on technology, always trying to push the limits,” continues Cordill. “A lot of clients come to us to do the impossible.”
Starting out in commercial sheetfed offset printing, the shop added digital printing, and then direct mail and program work, expanding the range of options it could offer its clientele. “That helped us get through some rough times in offset,” Cordill notes.
Premier Press has also been a leader from an environmental sustainability standpoint, as exemplified by its carbon-neutral, 100% wind-powered status and its SGP certification.
Recently, it has also begun offering services such as custom or influencer packaging — shorter runs where brands want to prototype a new design or want to create something innovative and out-of-the-box for a small group of targeted consumers.
But the most recent addition to its creative services lineup — photography — came along with the shop’s acquisition of JTW Partners in late 2018. “Photography is a whole new ballgame for us,” Cordill says. Premier Press originally looked to JTW for its dye-sublimination fabric printing capabilities — another new service it is gaining in the acquisition — but Premier viewed the opportunity to add commercial photographers and production artists with prototyping and post-production retouching expertise as a way to offer even more turnkey solutions.
“It was an opportunity to onboard team members who are leaders in that field,” Cordill notes. “It was a bonus for us. Photography fits in nicely with the creative services we’re already providing. We can now do backup color retouching or take on a whole project, doing full photo shoots. It’s breaking new ground for us, for sure, and it’s very exciting.”
The service is still brand new for Premier Press, with the new team members for now focusing on the work they already had lined up before the acquisition. That said, Cordill is already planning how to roll it out to the Premier Press customer base. “I’m thinking the best opportunity will be starting off small, taking on [customers’] overload work,” she says. “I believe there is a lot of opportunity in that area.”
Digital Photography for the Digital World
All of the new employees and the equipment they brought with them have been tucked into the existing Premier Press facility, allowing the company to integrate the new services more easily into its existing workflows. Much of the work right now consists of digital photography for projects such as websites and online catalogs, rather than for print campaigns, but, according to Cordill, “that is a great synergy to help us start moving more into the digital world, as well.”
And further expansion is absolutely on the table for the company. Cordill notes that right now, expanding the creative and agency side of the business is a top priority, with the new commercial photography services playing a pivotal role, but project management and diving further into package prototyping is also going to be a major element of the business going forward.
The shop also recently purchased a new HP Indigo digital press, upgrading the shop’s digital capabilities and allowing it to offer more comprehensive print options as well. “We are really committed to keeping the printing side of the business,” says Cordill. “Print is important to us, and it supports the other side of the business. We are not looking at getting rid of it — we are looking at expanding both sides. And we still do a lot of offset printing as well. Offset still has a big part to play — not as big as it used to be, but still a part.”
She notes that high-end offset output, in particular, has become something of a niche market, with many of the shop’s competitors going out of business over the years. “There just aren’t as many companies that can do the really high-end work anymore,” Cordill adds. “We are definitely a leader in that market, and there’s opportunity there. Not like it used to be, but it’s there.”
Another element the company is looking to grow is the wide-format digital printing side of the business, with Cordill noting they are considering expanding their capabilities and capacity in that space. “And continuing to grow the direct mail and online ordering solutions program work is also a focus for us,” she reveals.
“I see us continuing to grow,” she continues. “Probably expanding more into digital marketing materials as well. We’ve always been really good at keeping an eye out for what’s next and being able to move and go after it.”
Premier Press truly embodies “convergence” and what success can look like when printers start to look beyond the presses. Print remains a strong element of the company’s business model, but it is also supporting other services and directions, allowing Premier Press to grow and change as the needs of the industry and the market shift.
It is a company never content to accept good enough, or to stop looking ahead at what might be next. “And that makes it fun,” Cordill concludes. “It’s never boring around here.”