While the retail clothing and jewelry sectors in most cities are drastically discounting their prices this year in an effort to boost sales and remain solvent, printing industry experts agree that there is no long-term advantage to lowering prices if you want to stay in the printing and graphics business.
“Improve your customer service, don’t cut your prices—that won’t save your firm,” said John Stewart, president of Q.P. Consulting Inc., Melbourne, Fla., and a senior contributing editor to Quick Printing magazine. “Poor management and high labor costs are the reason printing business go out.”
Stewart has been providing consulting, speaking and industry research services to the quick and small commercial printing industry for more than 20 years. His company is also the co-publisher of the National Association of Quick Printers (NAQP) 2009/2010 Printing Industry Pricing Study, now in its 13th year of publication.
“A printer should not be pricing out of fear or by what your customers are telling you the price should be,” he added. “It doesn’t matter what part of the country you live in. It’s the prices in your own community that matter the most.”
Larry Hunt, past chairman of NAQP and founder of the NAQP High Speed Copier and Color Copier Users Groups, has been the successful owner and operator of four quick print shops since 1973. He agreed with Stewart that slashing prices will not benefit a printing firm long term. “I haven’t seen a change in tactics this year” because of the economy, he noted. “The vast majority of print work comes from repeat customers, not shopping price.”
Hunt, an industry consultant and the president of Larry Hunt Publications, a Tampa, Fla. company that publishes monthly newsletters, explained, “Customers are not as knowledgeable as printers think they are because they don’t have the time to study what something costs.”
Both Stewart and Hunt stressed the importance of conducting pricing surveys in your local metro area. “You need to shop your competition, and shop it professionally,” noted Stewart. This means hiring someone to make calls to at least seven to 10 other printers in the local community regarding a specific printed item, such as a two-sided color brochure, business cards, letterhead, and a few basic printed products.
“If you can visit the other businesses, that’s even better—maybe two visits and a few phone calls,” explained Stewart. “You will learn a lot about your competition” by doing this research.
Stewart noted that prices will vary enormously in any single market, once you find the average price of a basic item you will find printers who are charging 30 to 45 percent both above and below the average. For example, if the average price of an item costs $100, you will find printers in your area charging $60 and printers asking $140 for the same basic item.