It’s no surprise that this year’s Top 40 Shops have their sights focused on the national economy and their sales growth—and how those will affect their margins and profits. The uncertainty that still exists in regards to taxes, healthcare, and the general economy have a profound effect on how they plan for the future especially in terms of investments—in both people and equipment.
“Macro economic uncertainty will likely be the biggest challenge of 2013,” says Heather Gorman, marketing director of Duggal Visual Solutions. “We expect to overcome it by our continued emphasis on efficiency.”
(Download a PDF of the 2013 Top Shop List here.)
Efficiency has been a key word from shops this year when they talk about their current productivity and future profits—and it’s something many of them have a lot experience with given the economy over the last several years.
“We already subscribed to the lean manufacturing philosophy and that gave us a head start. But, more than ever, we are examining every step of our operation and excising waste whenever we see it,” says Jon Heilman, marketing director for Firehouse Image Center.
“Our sales and internal production workflow are in a constant state of improvement. The leaders in the industry will be the ones who keep efficient,” says Gary Schellerer, Sr., president of Bloomingale Signs by Tomorrow.
While maintaining margins, growing profits, and finding new efficiencies is at the heart of everyone’s plan for 2013, where will this growth come from? Industry leaders list differentiation, expanding their list of services, and avoiding the commodity trap.
For Sharpe Images, Zach Sharpe, vice president of graphic communications, says, “We are creating measurable value and innovative ROI for our clients so we avoid commodity pricing comparisons.”
“Our biggest challenge will be to keep successfully navigating the waters of a price oriented marketplace,” says Nicolas Slobinsky, sales and marketing communications director, for PacBlue Printing. “How? By effectively communicating to our customers that PacBlue adds value and quality to the work we do for them.”
“The continual commoditization of print is more prevalent than ever and companies need to find ways to move beyond a ‘print only’ business,” says Paul Lilienthal, owner of Pictura—and newly-elected chairman for the SGP. “There will continue to be business constraints—capital, competition, etc.—that will likely create continued business consolidation in the printing industry.”
Peeq Media’s CEO Steve Babat feels that more than simple commoditization is the issue. “Many perceive that the biggest challenge in the industry is the commoditization of traditional graphics services as a result of price competition. However, we do not see this as accurate. The true issue of our industry is the new competition from previously non-existent channels of advertising—Web-based media, social media, banner-ads, viral campaigns, and the impeding revolution of digital or electronic signage,” says Babat. “For business to survive, they must not only focus on the now, but be keenly aware of what is around the corner and ready to implement and coordinate these new technologies into their respective businesses.”
Firehouse’s Heilman agrees that differentiation is key to their growth and continuing prosperity. “We fit in a niche for retailers, but our challenge is to broaden our appeal by offering more services under our roof. We have expanded our wide-format line to stay on the cutting edge of speed and quality. And we have introduced a small-format solution by purchasing an HP Indigo Digital Press. That reduces the stress level of our clients. Now they can send us their wide- and small-format work under one PO and not have to source multiple vendors.”