The Dealer's Dilemma
The graphic arts equipment dealer has long been the only distribution pipeline for many manufacturers of printing and finishing machinery. Having your own dedicated sales force is a very expensive proposition. And our vast geography rules out a direct sales arm for most smaller and even mid-sized equipment manufacturers.
But the overall shrinkage of the print market has challenged dealers like never before. A smaller potential customer base forces them to diversify their product lines further, and to try to enter new potential markets. This is far from easy, as (successfully) entering a new market — especially against existing competitors — takes lots of time and money. And this also works against new suppliers trying to enter the U.S. market.
So, scale and size do matter, as dealers invest in new manufacturers which will grow their sales. An interesting example is Wisconsin-based BEST Graphics. With a 38-year history, the firm has been around long enough to see opportunities come and go. BEST has probably one of the most diverse collection of manufacturers I have ever seen. They range from the U.S. through Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Japan and South Korea. A mini United Nations of graphics vendors. But it’s the diversity of specialties that’s most interesting — diecutters, blankers, folder-gluers and more for the packaging side; and perfect binders, saddle stitchers, guillotine cutting systems, buckle folders, and hard cover systems for the bindery. And, throw in laminating systems, pile turners, specialty packaging and window-patching machines.
The sheer breadth of equipment has enabled BEST to not only weather the occasional economic storm, but to steadily grow its business over the years. Unlike many dealers, they continually traveled abroad to seek out world-class graphics systems manufacturers whom they thought could succeed in the U.S. market.
A large part of its success is also due to continued investment in technical support and spare parts for their multiple manufacturers. This is critical for every dealer because it’s how you support the customer after the sale that makes (or breaks) a reputation. BEST’s strategy is a model for many graphics dealers looking to thrive in today’s markets. Have enough diversity in your portfolio, continue to invest in post-sale support, and keep an eye out for new suppliers that might do well with your customer base.