By Melissa Donovan
Trade-only wholesale printers meet the needs of print service providers (PSPs) experiencing a capacity issue or lacking the right hardware or media for the job. It’s good business practice to have a partner at your disposal if these inconveniences arise. The alternative is losing business or a repeat client.
Choosing the right trade-only wholesale printer depends on how its operational goals align with yours. Trust is paramount as a trade-only wholesale printer becomes an extension of your own business.
Above: Last year Stouse invested in three new digital presses to continue offering its customers a range of products from magnets to decals and banners.
While trade-only wholesale printers have always had a presence in the industry, over the last few years it seems there has been an influx of options. Digital printing’s capabilities are growing.
Print shops recognize the appeal of offering many services to their customers—which keeps them coming back for more. However, the cost and commitment of bringing new hardware in house; learning how to design, print, and finish a new application; or adding more employees to the mix can be overwhelming. This where trade-only wholesale printers become an attractive option.
Admittedly, the print, sign, and packaging industry is huge, says Gene Hamzhie, CEO, FireSprint Printing. “No one does it all under one roof anymore. Specializing means better quality, higher efficiency, and a targeted customer base. More printers are realizing that specialization keeps their equipment running and more resellers are learning that working with a small, specialized group of customers is the best way to compete.”
To diversify, print providers can outsource. “There are many upsides to ordering from a trade-only printer, therefore the market has responded, and trade printers have grown. Print buyers give up big risk factors like expensive equipment, the maintenance of the equipment, and inventory of all supplies involved. Not having to worry about all ‘the how’ lets you concentrate on building a sales team to serve as many clients as possible,” comments Austin Kimler, creative director, Yard Sign Ninjas.
“By developing a network of trusted industry partners quickly and cost-effectively producing various projects, business owners are able to say ‘yes’ to more jobs without the time and expense of adding additional employees and equipment,” explains Josh Robertson, market development manager, JDS Sign Supply.
More PSPs choose to do just that. Jennifer Quartz, inside sales, ImagineThis, believes one of the leading factors making outsourcing a prevalent option is that buyers want graphics faster and larger. This involves purchasing new printers to meet the demand, as well as having a larger variety of materials on hand—something Quartz admits many print shops don’t have the available capacity or capital for.
“Individual sign shops often do not have the capacity to keep a lot of materials in stock, especially when it is a very large product or quantity. With the cost of printers continuing to rise, individual shops do not want or cannot invest in the printers that print larger and faster. It is often more economical to outsource the jobs to wholesale printers,” she continues.
Similarly, certain applications gaining traction are not economical for some types of PSPs to produce. Items like silicone edge graphic displays, larger banners, and dye-sublimated printing are increasingly in demand, cites Kent Dunham, VP, sales, Showdown Displays. Teaming up with a reliable, trade-only wholesale printer opens the door to these products.
It’s also important to note, in addition to buyers’ needs and new applications shaping the landscape of trade-only wholesale printers, these businesses play a role in their own growing prevalence. “In the past, trade-only printers relied heavily on word of mouth, print advertising, and association memberships to obtain business. Trade-only printers were slower to begin utilizing digital marketing to advertise because they were comfortable in their position. At the same time, digital equipment became more affordable allowing new competitors into the trade-only space,” shares Jennifer M. Hoyt, marketing communications manager, Stouse, LLC.
“Entrepreneurs now have easy access to e-commerce expertise and put that to use by gathering more jobs, running them on specialized equipment, and effectively sharing that investment with print professionals who otherwise might not be able to justify the capital expense. On top of that, trade printers can take their buying power and drive revenue growth in tangent markets like labels, packaging, and luxury products,” adds Simon Beltran, president, 4over, LLC.
Waiting in the Wings
There are continuous changes in digital printing technology. Print buyers constantly ask for applications that can help them stand out from the crowd. PSPs should consider having a trade-only wholesale printer at their disposal. When the need arises, it is then a simple case of dialing a phone number or logging into a web storefront portal and uploading a graphic.
Waiting to contact a trade-only wholesale printer until you absolutely need them means it’s probably too late, according to Robertson. “Researching the options, vetting candidates, and establishing protocols takes time. If we already have a connection with a company, we can start working on a project much more quickly.”
“It is important to have a partnership in place in order to work together on a frequent basis to complete the jobs,” agrees Quartz. “When a service provider has a large job—either in size or quantity—that they cannot or do not want to complete in shop, it is important to have an established relationship when a need arises. You do not want to test a new printer when it is a large job and it is the individual sign shop’s reputation on the line,” she recommends.
Beltran believes it is a good business strategy to already know the players and explore how they can supplement your offerings. This allows you to be ready when the opportunity arises, versus overwhelmed by it. “If a customer comes in asking for 25,000 direct mail postcards, large format signage, or promotional items, and you have limited resources or capacity, then knowing who is ready to help you deliver will be a huge asset,” he says.
“When sign companies become busy they sometimes pool their talent in other areas of the business and outsource the printing to maximize efficiencies and margins. Another good reason to have a wholesaler on the ready is in case you have work that is beyond your capabilities including large prints or specific color requirements,” comments Jim Schwieger, national sales and marketing director, Miratec Systems.
The alternative to not vetting an appropriate trade-only wholesale printer prior to absolutely needing one is losing business. “Without these partners, a PSP may have to decline business and send their customers looking for additional printing sources—potentially jeopardizing those future relationships,” adds Dunham.
Trade-only wholesale printers are available based on the needs of the PSP. Hamzhie encourages anyone to reach out—whether it is for a capacity issue or lack of specialized equipment. “Everyone in the business should have access to vendors and resources to say ‘yes’ to their most important clients. As a trade printer, we are happy to work with resellers that deal with us daily, or resellers that only use us when equipment goes down. We are here to support the industry, regardless of how often or how much that is,” he continues.
“It is important for print providers to have a trade-only printer at their disposal for frequent and occasional work. Some sign shops choose to utilize an outside printer several times a week, every week, all year long. Other sign shops need to utilize an outside printer less frequently—maybe only once a year,” notes Quartz.
According to Kimler, having a trade-only printer “in your back pocket” is for everyone. “We’ve all been there at some point in our careers, a job comes in and you’re not sure that you can handle it without affecting prior or even future committed work. This is the perfect time to reach out to your trade-only printer and keep the work flowing positively.”
Get it Right
Having a trade-only wholesale printer waiting in the wings for when the need arises is important. Once that is recognized, it then becomes a process of finding the best one. Factors that a print provider should contemplate when deciding on the best partner for their organization include quality customer service as well as available products. Price, reliability, and production timeframes are also considerations.
“Ultimately, your best-fit trade partner is going to be someone who helps you reach your business goals, whether that’s growing your customer base, diversifying your offerings, or even exiting your business profitably,” recommends Beltran.
In any scenario, it’s important to trust the people you work with. “Do you like the people on the phone? Can you depend on them? You have to trust the people you are working with to do the right thing,” advises Hamzhie.
“Delivering top quality work should be a given and the quality of the customer service is important. Do they meet specifications and deliver on the promise? Do they consistently meet deadlines? How easy are they to work with? Will they stand behind their work and make things right if there is a problem,” asks Robertson.
Dunham believes a partner needs to “guarantee on-time delivery and 100 percent customer satisfaction. This provides comfort for the print provider when their customers request items that they don’t produce themselves.”
The trade-only wholesale printer needs to act as an extension of the PSP in many different facets. For example, both entities’ processes should closely match. Hamzhie suggests checking if the trade-only wholesale printer’s ordering process works well with the PSP’s systems. Their standard level of quality should meet or exceed the PSP’s customers’ expectations.
Other considerations include warranties, turnaround times, and materials. “How long is the warranty, is it pro-rate, and is it materials only or full remanufacture? Are the turnaround times guaranteed and how much is shipping? Materials are also important to understand so you can have accurate bid comparisons with other wholesalers,” explains Schwieger.
Correctly pricing a job is essential. “A true trade printer appreciates the time and effort you put into servicing your clients. There should be a margin in their wholesale pricing that allows you to do that,” adds Hamzhie.
Making a Contribution
Trade-only wholesale printers are active members of the printing community. Much of the work conducted on a daily basis involves advancing the graphic arts industry forward. Their contributions include educating PSPs and other print buyers on the latest trends from equipment to substrates and applications.
4over is all about simplification, convenience, and execution with speed, according to the company. It aims to help PSPs increase their revenue and serve more customers. With investments in new processes and technologies, 4over makes it possible for anyone in any stage of business to create success. One of its goals is to offer customers ways to create exactly what their clients envision. For example, 4over recently launched rose gold foil finishes for business cards, postcards, and invitations. Other finishing options for customers include raised spot UV or pearlescent stocks.
FireSprint Printing constantly develops content to help train not only its own people, but the customers that work with them and in turn, their customers. The company’s reseller network allows it to indirectly connect to a greater audience, which means new products and processes make it to the end user much faster. Positioned to work with most small- to medium-size printers and print resellers, FireSprint Printing is large enough to buy raw materials at discounts, yet small enough to work on custom projects. If a PSP’s typical client has 30 to 50 locations or is an organization with under 350 employees, FireSprint Printing is a good fit.
ImagineThis continuously researches the newest products and applications through trade publications and trade shows. Staying involved in the industry allows the company to offer customers the latest in cutting edge products. Customers are provided with individualized customer service and high-quality products in the quickest and most cost-effective manner possible.
JDS Sign Supply prides itself on delivering designs that offer a fresh perspective that not only reinvigorates a PSP’s staff but motivates them as well. According to the company, it separates itself from the competition with its award-winning customer service and large inventories. Carrying large inventories of digital print vinyl, cut vinyl, and banner material allows its team to start working on projects much quicker than someone who first needs to order materials.
Miratec Systems offers accurate, consistent, and repeatable digital printing using PureColor Technology 2.0, which is unique to the company; as well as its Super Splice offering for eliminating dark splice lines in vinyl graphics. It is known for its on-time guarantee, stating if a job doesn’t ship on time then it is free. Other offerings include online estimating and ordering systems available 24 hours a day and non-prorated warranties.
Showdown Displays monitors industry trends and as part of its strategic planning ensures it has the equipment and substrates to meet demands. One example is fabric and illuminated tension fabrics. Showdown Displays provides an On Target Guarantee, which guarantees on-time delivery, 100 percent customer satisfaction, timely response, and free marketing services that help a provider grow their business. Additionally, a dedicated team of individual field sales representatives offer training and support at a local level.
Signs365 is a grand format, trade-only wholesale printer. It offers a variety of full-color, high-quality printed products all produced in 24 hours. $10 Overnight Anywhere shipping is available on all products.
Stouse continually invests in new digital equipment and technology innovations to help customers grow. Last year it purchased three new digital presses. In February it announced its new paperboard folding carton line of products. The goal of the expansion is to give resellers a competitive advantage when ordering highly customized paperboard boxes. Later in 2020, the company plans to unveil a new platform to help customers with digital turnkey solutions for their business growth.
Yard Sign Ninjas invests in bleeding-edge technology, which allows anyone to have print access to multi-million dollar machinery. It also offers customers access to a knowledgeable staff that runs this machinery and gives guidance on products and designs. Yard Sign Ninjas provides one-, two-, and full-color glossy finish yard signs as standard. Due to the speed of its technology, the company quickly handles low and high quantities. Patented wire stands allow PSPs to offer a niche to local markets to keep clients coming back.
Turning to a Safety Net
Trade-only wholesale printers are popping up rapidly. While they have always maintained some sort of presence in the industry, they have certainly gained ground over the past few years.
Pressures of quick turnarounds and expanded service offerings have PSPs turning to these companies to fulfill their customers’ requests. This eliminates the need to carry costly overhead in materials or purchase an expensive piece of hardware. It also acts as a safety net when a printer is down or a customer’s job maxes out their production capacity.
PSPs rely on trade-only wholesale printers as essential partners in their success.
May2020, Digital Output