Members of the print community may find themselves quoting Queen Elizabeth II when referring to 2009. It was, for the majority of the industry, the “annus horribilis”—the horrible year. Last year marked the peak of the worst recession most of us have ever seen. A great many printing company owners were forced to sell their businesses or simply close their doors.
As the most identifiable microcosm of the print universe, the franchise segment presents us with a snapshot of the troubles that have dogged the larger industry. It also offers a glimpse of the turning tide as financial recovery begins. The observations offered up by the franchise leaders provide insight into their varied strategies for leading their affiliates into a brighter future.
The only franchise that did not report this year was LAZERQUICK. As a general rule, when a system fails to report, we estimate its sales to be on a fairly even par with the latest reported figures we have from them. In this case, however, that method is not supported. We must presume that LAZERQUICK was dealing with the same economy that everyone else endured. Because of that, the system’s sales figures have been adjusted downward. Information about shop locations and franchise fees were obtained from various reliable sources on the Internet, including the company’s own website.
Cast of Characters
At the end of 2009, virtually every metric tracked in QP’s Annual Franchise Review was down across the board. System-wide sales were down. Sales per shop dipped sharply. The number of franchise locations decreased—although, admittedly, that has been happening every year for about a decade now. The only category that seemed to be on the rise was the number of shops that left their franchise systems. Most struck out on their own as independents, some were consolidated, and a few went out of business completely.
As the curtain rose on the second decade of the millennium, there were seven U.S. based franchise systems with 2,795 shops worldwide. That is 138 fewer shops than the previous year; down by 4.7%. There were 2,153 shops in North America; a loss of 188 units, or 8.03% on the year.
Minuteman Press, with 942 locations, is still the largest system worldwide. Franchise Services, has a total of 634 locations. It is followed by ICED with 488, Allegra with 350, AlphaGraphics with 267, CPrint International with 95, and LAZERQUICK with 21 locations.
Of those companies, Allegra, CPrint, and LAZERQUICK are strictly North American concerns, meaning that all of their franchisees are in either the U.S. or Canada. Franchise Services has 498 franchisees in North America under the banners of Sir Speedy Printing and Marketing Services, PIP Printing and Marketing Services, and Signal Graphics. The majority of AlphaGraphics’ locations—234 of them—are in North America. ICED, on the other hand, maintains only 148 of its locations in the U.S. and Canada under the names of Kwik Kopy Printing, Franklin’s Printing, The Ink Well, and Kwik Kopy Business Centers.
If you are adding up the numbers on your own, you will need to subtract two U.S. locations from your total. Affinity franchise CPrint has two franchisees that are also members of other, primary franchises. Therefore, they have been backed out of the total so that they would not be counted twice. That is also the reason that the total number of shops will show a variance in some of the charts that accompany this article. The total numbers are correct.
While it was once quite common for franchisors to maintain locations that were corporately owned and operated, that practice began to fade about 12-15 years ago. LAZERQUICK and ICED are now the only systems that have corporate locations. ICED has a single such location. LAZERQUICK, however, owns 11 of the 21 locations that make up its system. It is also the only franchise that is still a strictly regional interest, with all locations operating on the West Coast.