The one-stop shop on top

There’s always been a tacit agreement between printers and their customers that mutual understanding is the root of all success.

It certainly makes sense for the printer. It’s much easier to score more work from a well-known customer than it is to get new work from a cold call. Reaching further inside the client usually unearths new opportunities to become a more valued print supplier – perhaps even the exclusive print supplier.

It can work for the client too. It takes just one phone call to arrange the new marketing campaign, to replace old sales and marketing collateral, and store brand and corporate identity data at one location. Very handy.

There is a trend among print buyers and procurement officers to consolidate their list of providers, and work with as few printers as they can, driven largely by the need to find efficiencies and cut costs. The ultimate example of this is the print manager, who offers the client a single source for whatever ink-on-paper products their heart desires. But plenty of buyers still have the need and the know-how to buy direct. After all, everyone knows a middleman has to take a cut, and a broker can also be a bottleneck.

But does that mean all printers should strive to be all things to all clients? The industry is divided. Depending on industry sector, many printers believe that, for business longevity, specialisation can be just as effective as taking the one-stop-shop approach.

In the mid-tier and up, the one-stop shop strategy has been the way forward. But this is often easier said than done. Having the capability to touch the printed product all the way from production to finishing to distribution requires not just an eye-watering equipment inventory, but the expertise to use it.

Immij, with facilities in Sydney and Melbourne, offers pre-press, offset and digital print, finishing, direct mail and print management services. Director Michael Smithe tells ProPrint: “Most printers claim to be a one-stop shop but I think it’s difficult to be a true one-stop shop from an investment and expertise perspective.

“But these days, with erosion of margins, you need to have an extensive range of products to attract a broader client base. Print is taking a hit from
every quarter, economically and environmentally, and you also have technology shifts, so it helps to spread out into other niche markets to provide better returns. The traditional printing market may not be there in the future, or certainly not in the volumes or the returns we enjoyed in the past.”

Printing companies in regional areas don’t have the luxury of choice. Local conditions dictate that they offer as many options as they can.

Ballarat-based Kingprint is a family business started in the 1970s. It was, in director John Schreenan’s words, an old-school print company. They found digital print about a decade ago and now offer commercial offset, digital print, high-end production services and online print ordering – “the whole shooting match” – to grow the business.

“When you offer a one-stop shop service, there’s no such thing as bread and butter printing. We do everything. We were definitely a pioneer in digital print in this region, and there still aren’t many doing it around here.

“We’re reaping rewards from new equipment investments, and we’re pretty aggressive out there with a strong sales presence. Our online print service is helping a lot with growth as well. We have some clients in Melbourne and several national clients in Queensland and New South Wales. About 30% of our work comes from outside the region.”

Shopping around

Garry Donpon, director of Smartprint in Toowoomba, supports Schreenan’s view that a comprehensive offering is necessary in regional centres.

“We offer our customers everything, but being in a regional centre we have to. There’s a value to doing the ‘shopping around’ work for customers. If they have to chase around to find an offset printer, and go somewhere else for some merchandising, and somewhere else for some digital print, there’s a lot of time wasting. Once they trust you to do their work and they like your products they don’t want to shop around. They want you to do the hard work for them. It’s about keeping your customers satisfied.”

But not all print buyers want just one supplier. Finding all the right printers might mean extra legwork, but some are prepared to do it for a better final product.

A procurement officer for one of Australia’s largest retailers tells ProPrint, on condition of anonymity, that for some projects they prefer to go to a specialist rather than their usual print suppliers, which are quite capable of producing those items but seldom offer new ideas on how to improve or enhance the project.

“Sometimes it pays to go outside the usual suppliers and talk to someone who might throw new light on a project, or simply do a better job of it, even if they cost a little bit more,” he says.

“If the project works, that extra bit is soon forgotten in the extra returns from the job.”

Cross-media supplier

Being a complete solution supplier covers a much broader media spectrum than it once did. Think that by running an in-house finishing department and offering some mailing, you can bill yourself as an end-to-end provider? Think again. Print is just one of several media in the mix, and one-stop shops now need to handle several.

For some clients, it’s not a matter of whether they would like to use a one-stop shop supplier, it is actually finding one with the requisite broad skills base. Sdirect is a marketing communications company with a varied clientele, including small businesses, major corporations and not-for-profits. It provides services in all media to suit clients’ requirements.

Creative director Geoff Cowen tells ProPrint that the company uses “10 to 12 printers” for reliability, quality, and capability in particular areas, such as cross-media.

“None of them is able to do everything we need,” says Cowen. “For example, we’d expect that a digital printer who does our personalised printing can also handle some cross-media projects. Ideally, we’d like an offset printer to be able to do cross-media work for us, but a lot of them don’t. If we could get everything under one roof, it would be a lot easier. But we haven’t yet found a printer who can do everything we need.”

These days, doing ‘everything’ can mean much more than just accommo­dating the ink-on-paper aspects of the job – multimedia is an increasingly important part of the bag of tricks. 

Andrew Moffitt is director at Moffitt.Moffitt, a leading Sydney design and creative agency. He makes no bones about the fact that they are looking for more than just a print job.

“People come to us with all sorts of creative challenges and we solve them. We don’t treat print or digital media as our main focus. We operate in both worlds, so we’re media-neutral,” he said.

“We deal with about four printers. A printer is there to offer advice. What I need from them is their knowledge. No one knows what they do better than they do. From a creative point of view, I certainly know quite a bit about printing, but most of the time we’re trying to find the really pointy-end insight to make the job more engaging. We’re in the hands
of the printer, so that’s an expectation I have with them.

“The printer has to be in the creative process too. That’s their job. I can go all over town to find a print job for the lowest price, but the reality is I’d much rather give a print job to a printer who can offer me great advice and deliver a fantastic product, and if that price is 20% higher than their competitors, I’d still rather go with them.”

Sdirect’s Geoff Cowen agrees. “There are benefits for printers in specialising. For some projects we’d definitely feel more comfortable going to a specialist, knowing we’ll get the best job available. Price doesn’t always matter.”

There is a common thread in print buyers’ expectations from both specialist and broad-spectrum printers: expertise and value. Clients need to be confident that their sole print supplier can deliver on whatever they need whenever they need it, and be brilliant at doing all of it.

And printers must beware of putting too many eggs in too few baskets by relying on all the print work from just a couple of clients. They can also make dubious investment decisions just to please those clients.

Donpon warns: “Doing everything for them doesn’t mean you’ve got them
in the palm of your hand. You’re only as good as your last job. You’ve got to retain the customer with good products and good service.”


Case study: Lindsay Yates Group


Lindsay Yates Group has grown from a “typical” commercial offset company on Sydney’s lower north shore into one of the country’s leading providers of print, mail and fulfilment, digital and cross-media strategies. But sales director Craig Loughran prefers another term to “one-stop shop”.

“I prefer multimedia business communications provider, or end-to-end solutions provider, because the industry is changing very rapidly.”

The company’s directors chose to pursue a growth strategy that included acquisitions and pursuing varying markets that showed promise. The company’s results show they were correct.

“It gives you the opportunity to access different revenue streams,” says Craig Loughran.

“The revenue stream in print has decreased significantly lately, particularly in volume, and in margins, so you have to look at other revenue streams to be able to grow your business.

“It also gives you the opportunity to look within clients, and understand the opportunities for more work from them, and gives you an angle to sell for new business. Nobody wants to hear, ‘Hi, I’m a printer’. That doesn’t cut it any more.”

Loughran points to a conservative approach as the path to growth. New areas of operation don’t come overnight.

“Setting up areas takes a period of years. They slowly but surely grow. If you’re not doing it by mergers or acquisitions, you can’t do it tomorrow. It just won’t happen.”

Understanding customers in new markets takes time and patience, says Loughran. Print buyers have changed, but many printers haven’t.

“The customers of print are changing. You’re dealing with a lot more procurement now. They’re looking for solutions, how they can reduce costs and increase efficiencies, so you have to propose a targeted approach to achieve that for them. You have to know their business, and you have to have the right solution in your proposal.”

“You can’t fight procurement people. You have to work alongside them and understand what their role is, and you have to look at your business and see how you can support a procurement person.”

Staff are an integral part of a success­ful multifaceted print business. They need to be able to handle different tasks.

“Whereas once you just had an estimator, now you need an estimator who can handle account management and planning. Multitasking is very important now.

“If you can bring in multimedia and other exciting opportunities for young people, and opportunities to add value, look at opportunities for young people to be incentivised through upselling. Currently in the print industry nobody really upsells.

“If you have a proper business solution though print into mail and multimedia you can bring in an opportunity to upsell. And if you don’t have people upselling, what’s in it for them in their career for the longer term?”

Case study: Look Print

Look Print is a wide-format printer in Sydney’s inner west, with a reputation for display, graphics, shop and merchandising, POP, and “that something extra”. Managing director David Leach says the company had always wanted to focus on specific markets.

“We decided that we’d prefer to be masters of one thing rather than a jack of all trades. You can’t possibly be the best in the marketplace at everything. We will outsource work if we can’t do it. But having said that, the amount we outsource is very, very small – less than 5%. And nearly all the time we’d tell the customer we’re outsourcing it, because there are challenges with outsourcing the work but we choose the best people to outsource to. We tell them, because if anything goes wrong, we’re carrying the baby with the whole thing.”

Leach points to the fundamentals of business for the decision to specialise. “There are two main points of difference in a job. One is price, and the other is value add, or differentiation.”.

“If people are competing purely on price, it is highly unlikely they have the best product in the marketplace. My belief is that unless you want to sell on price, you have to specialise. For example, we print on a very unusual material. It’s a world first. There is nobody else doing it. Is it price sensitive? Yes. Is it price competitive? No. But it’s not price dependent.”

The company has focused on a few core areas of expertise, and has developed its business model on market acceptance of that expert knowledge.

“My experience is that people who do one or two things exceedingly well usually do them more efficiently, with less waste, at a price that shows a better profit. If you do a hundred things there is always somebody else out there who can do them better and cheaper, and they’ll usually get the job.

“I think of the old adage: the best way to make money is to find a need that isn’t being filled and fill it. If everybody is trying to fill needs that are already filled, it’s going to be a hard battle.

“To print everything you need a huge array of equipment, which is expensive. That’s why we partner. We don’t do books, but we do partner to have books printed. Similarly with billboards, we partner with a firm who specialises in billboards, and can do them faster, better and cheaper.”

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Sprinter newsletter

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.