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Taste For Success

Growth by Any Means

Brendan Perring analyses the vertical markets that offer solid growth prospects for the future and speaks to some of the top brands in the industry for advice

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Today’s print businesses owners need to genuinely raise their eyes to the horizon and envisage how their current set of staff, skills, capital, and technology can be deployed to develop new diversified modules of the company. These can then be expanded in the future should the need arise

Aspiration is the very first step

“Is there life after web-to-print?” asks Phil McMullin, sales manager of Epson UK, and he has an answer.
I thought this question beautifully encapsulated the challenge and opportunities facing UK commercial printers today. Once web-to-print was seen as the savior of the industry, a way to increase revenue significantly, recapture custom lost to digital media, and maintain a good margin.

(Above & below) Whether it is direct-to-garment printing (Espon Sure Color SC-F2000), promotional products for marketing campaigns, or soft signage and textile-based graphics (Epson Sure Color SC-F6200), Epson has a print technology to facilitate diversification and growth

Unfortunately, this did not come to pass for the majority of printers. But what this question does is point towards the fact that, for a long time, there has been blinkers on many firms. Their strategy to thrive has been focused on just sticking to what they do best, create online ordering systems that remove obstacles to purchasing, and focus on efficiencies and the reduction of waste to protect margins. This is not a bad strategy, but there is so much more opportunity out there for printers that are willing to be aspirational and pursue growth by any means.
Be indispensable
McMullin continues: “There is an alternative business model for print-service-providers (PSPs), a way they can build a closer relationship with customers and add value to the print they sell, all without a huge capital investment. The key is to recognise the exceptional position held in realising the power of the brand.

There is an alternative business model for print-service-providers

“Everyday printers are reproducing and protecting the value of the brand for each customer. Given that it is five times as costly to find and service a new customer as it is to offer more to existing customers, the key to ‘growth by any means’ has to come from diversification. By taking on more printed items for a customer and providing great advice, consultancy, quality, and responsiveness you are increasing their reliance on your services and preventing an alternative supplier getting a foothold.”

One area that Epson sees offering promise is corporate workwear and garment decoration. That can make best use of existing design skills and colour management within the PSP and superior quality printing technology is not outrageously expensive.

McMullin adds: “Dye sublimation inkjet technology is great for polyester-based materials—now good quality and diverse in finish, often emulating natural fibres—and direct-to-garment (DTG) that is ideal for cotton-based products. And either technology is relatively inexpensive to invest in.”

Epson’s DTG printer, the Sure Color SC-F2000, and entry-level dye sublimation Sure Color SC-F6200 are both very affordable. This technology also has the added benefit of opening up other opportunities in home furnishings and decorations, ceramics or promotional products as well.

McMullin concludes: “Inspire loyalty by understanding, and helping to meet, your customer’s goals. The key is to be indispensable.”

Adapt to thrive
Another major manufacturer that has a good overview of the print industry from end-to-end is HP, which has a strong presence in light production and industrial printing technology, large-format print, and of course a heavy specialisation in IT.

Speaking to Anne Sharp, UK and Ireland large-format marketing manager, HP Inc, she is emphatic about where growth for PSPs is to be found: “As always, businesses must adapt to not just survive, but to thrive, in a constantly changing environment. Adopting a simple and efficient system that can handle both colour and monochrome large-format print runs smoothly, quickly, and cost-effectively, is vital. This in turn frees up both time and capital for businesses, helping them cut time to market for critical projects, expand their business offering or exceed customers’ expectations by offering a wider portfolio of services.

“As well as saving money—and avoiding errors—fast, high quality large-format colour printing also creates new opportunities for businesses,” writes Anne Sharp UK and I large format marketing manager, HP Inc

“As well as saving money—and avoiding errors—fast, high quality large-format colour printing also creates new opportunities for businesses. With ink costs as low as 30p for an A2 colour poster, HP Page Wide XL printers allow you to offer real value for money on short-run promotional posters and personalisation applications. This in turn allows businesses to upsell to existing customers and win new projects.  HP’s large-format offering is at the forefront of the industry in the shift from separated systems, to one device that can offer customers an end-to-end service.”

Shifting over to another manufacturer with a strong view on this subject, Peter Benton, managing director of Technotrans, offers up his argument on this important topic. He emphasises that your destiny as a printer is very much in your own hands: “It would be easy to say there’s growth in LE-UV and LED-UV, in packaging, and in web-to-print. Certainly there are opportunities in those areas, but I think the key to expansion comes from the mindset, culture, and structure of a company.

“Be open-minded about your firm’s future and think about recruiting from outside the industry and also attracting younger people. Too often you see jobs advertised requiring ‘relevant industry experience’, but this can lead to us doing what we do and how we do it relentlessly without questioning our approach or methods. We need to be challenged. The young are computer-literate and phone obsessed and maybe they even think in a different way to us, but they are the future and if we don’t bring them in we could find we are targeting an audience or customer base that no longer exists medium term. We need to do some blue sky thinking.”

Benton concludes: “So, for growth by any means I would say keep doing what you already do well and look at what you could do better and what you could do new. Businessman Jack Welsh once advised that the leader doesn’t have to be the smartest, but to recruit the smartest people around him or her. Too often that doesn’t happen because people feel too insecure, but in fact it is the key to the most successful businesses.”
The millennial challenge

Now, a vertical market that is both accessible to commercial printers and experiencing year-on-year growth is the large-format display and event products industry. Many UK printers have founded profitable business modules to help with cash flow and revenue generation by focusing on it. And Osvaldo Gallio, managing director of Ultima Displays, is confident that there is still a lot of room for new entrants.

“The print industry has had to find new ways to adapt and diversify to meet the demands of our millennial society,” says Osvaldo Gallio, managing director of Ultima Displays

“The print industry, like many others, has had to find new ways to adapt and diversify to meet the demands of our millennial society. It is a world in which, at the click of a mouse, almost every product or service a customer has ever required is expected to be available within 24 hours,” says Gallio.
He continues: “It includes custom-made and -built items, even the highest quality print products that have to be created overnight and delivered to customers the following day.

“At Ultima Displays, we are striving to achieve the highest levels of punctuality in our response times, whether it be during the assembly of the product, or the delivery. We have even given this customer-focused approach a name:  Ultima 2.0 —to put our customers at the forefront and meet the demands of the millennial era.”

Gallio concludes: “Not only have we diversified our operations by investing in the new dual-purpose Durst Rhotex 325 printing system to help our customers meet high capacity orders, but we have also introduced a new same-day dispatch system to help them meet tight deadlines, which in turn saves our customers money.” 

Another successful supplier and manufacturer in this field is Very Displays, which also has some very useful insights into this growth sector and how you can exploit it.
“Printing technology is constantly progressing and changing, and being able to offer your clients the best print services on the market from small to large-format, lithographic and digital printing, is essential for a good return of investment,” begins Anastassia Grigorjev, sales and marketing director at Very Displays.

“Very Displays’ textile solutions are another growing area in the industry as they deliver something lightweight, easy to use and mobile, as well as being great value for money,” explains Anastassia Grigorjev, sales and marketing director, Very Displays

She continues: “All businesses factor in a range of marketing tools and techniques within their budgets and so it’s beneficial for printers to offer a wide range of print solutions to their clients.

“Today, corporate branding involves everything from simple business cards, brochures, and banners to the more sophisticated exhibition stands and displays, as well as point-of-sale and retail solutions. Everything is needed and it benefits print companies to be able to offer the user a complete printing solutions service.”

Very Displays has come up with an effective product mix to help printers, not only avoid missing any print opportunities, but add more profitable additional revenue streams to their business.

Grigorjev adds: “Roller banners, flags, and pop-ups are at the core of our business, these products lines are used every day all over the world by thousands of companies, big or small. Our flags can be seen at fuel stations, fast food outlets, and garage forecourts—the market scope is huge and we’ve tracked a big growth over the last year, watching portable displays advertising soar.”

She concludes: “Very Displays is here to help printers expand their hardware product range and offerings, to capture all customer opportunities with no risk to their business. We also have the capability to assist with the outsourcing of wide format, dye-sublimation, and UV printing at very competitive costs until investment into machinery is made.”

Leading the charge

Assessing the comments above there will of course be a degree of ‘stating the obvious’ for many of you, but it is critical to remind you dear reader that there are these tangible opportunities for future growth and prosperity to be pursued. And going back to the basics of what they are and how they work is important. Indeed, this was a trend picked up by Antalis several years ago when it began a massive reinvestment strategy and diversified from its stronghold in the volume paper supply business into the sign, graphics, large-format, and display sectors. The result has been considerable company growth as it has helped many of its core commercial print customers diversify into this area.

Chris Green, head of channel, visual communications, explains a little more and proffers some very valuable advice: “Antalis stocks more than 1,750 lines of large-format visual communications for rigid and flexible media, but there are a number of steps to follow and consider for successful diversification.

“Firstly, if a commercial printer is contemplating diversification, they need to review the current visual communications work that is outsourced, and seriously consider whether this work should be brought in-house. This conclusion can be reached after following the considerations.

“Examine the nature of the work being outsourced: is it commodity, niche, or added value? The commercial printer must look into whether the business has the economies of scale to make production worthwhile and research whether the job is technically demanding in terms of printing or application/fitting.

“Secondly, they should conduct an audit of the type of kit they currently utilise. It is essential that the investment of bringing production in-house is financially viable. Do they have the premises to fit the larger flatbeds or roll-to-roll?

“Despite having the correct kit, ensuring their business has the correct level of skill set is vital. Employees must have accurate training to ensure optimal outputs are produced every time.”

According to Green, once commercial printers have assessed the above factors, there is an abundance of new market opportunities that printers can look to diversify into. Firstly, there is the interior design market, as the range of digital wallcoverings grows in availability to create bespoke or personalised designs, as well as the potential afforded by dye-sublimation to create bespoke textiles, continue to pique the interest of many interior designers. Easy application products, such as its Coala Magnetics range, will also present a big business opportunity next year, as retailers seek to refresh their displays in an increasingly challenging retail environment quickly and with minimal fuss.

O Factoid: The cost in ink to produce an A2 colour poster on the HP Page Wide XL is 30p. O

The improvements in rapid air technology on cast films has also made vehicle wrapping a more accessible segment of the market for commercial printers, although still very demanding in terms of the application, with the correct training and products this growing market can provide added value benefits.
In turn, the use of environmentally-friendly and recyclable retail display and point-of-sale products are only going to be more critical in the retail domain, meaning more sustainable options such as Antalis’ Priplak and Dispa materials.
So, there you have it, just a small snapshot of what is on offer to you as a commercial printer looking for a pathway to achieve growth by any means. And considering this, I think Green sums up perfectly and simply what your mantra must be: “As we anticipate and plan for the future, the winners will be those who adapt in line with our evolving sector.”

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