Small/Quick vs. Franchise Printers — War of the Worlds
CONSIDER FOR a moment the impact that the Internet revolution—and prior to that, the desktop publishing movement—has had on copy shops, small commercial and quick printers.
In the last 15 years alone, ink-jet and laser printers have become staples of the home office, turning making copies into do-it-yourself projects. On the Web side, Internet specialists such as VistaPrint and PrintingForLess have harvested bread-and-butter elements of commercial printing—business cards, letterhead, brochures, folders and signage—with point-and-click ease.
And in this corner, wearing the blue and white trunks, from the fighting city of your home town, are the battle-tested small commercial and quick printers. They are squaring off against the master of disaster, king of sting: the franchise printer. Your referee is the office superstore, which will occasionally take a swipe at either the small/quick and franchise pugs when they’re not looking. So, maybe a pro wrestling analogy would be more apropos, with OfficeMax wielding a folding metal chair.
The battle lines are not clearly drawn, but the competition for market share is obvious as the venues for waging war have evolved. According to the “Small Commercial and Quick Printer Study: 2006-2011,” commissioned by the Print Industries Market Information and Research Organization (PRIMIR), “walk-in” business—long associated with the quick printer market—accounts for only 15 percent of sales, the same figure garnered by contract work. Inside and direct outside sales, the study says, account for nearly 50 percent of work combined.
John Peterson, owner of St. Louis-based Kopytek, has the advantage of having operated as a printing franchise prior to becoming independent in 2001. In going solo, Peterson moved from being a retail outlet to more of a larger format commercial printer that specializes in sell sheets, three- and six-panel brochures, and posters.
“Having been on the other side of the coin, I know what they’re dealing with,” Peterson says of franchisees. “Markets changed pretty dramatically. Our overlap with them really occurs on short-run digital color and what I consider small home office-based business. We have a number of customers with home-based businesses that need a fair amount of printing. Those customers are susceptible to the supercenter/franchise printer.