Behind the Scenes
An in-depth look at this year's top distributors listNovember 2012 By Elise Hacking Carr
The results of Print+Promo's 2012 top suppliers list taught us to anticipate the unexpected. We saw positive and negative changes alike. The industry, including our publication, headed in a new direction; however, total annual sales revenue took a slight dip from the previous year. Would leading distributors follow in their supplier partners' footsteps? The answer might surprise you.
Similar to the October issue, the big list was condensed from the "Top 100" to the "Top 50". In terms of finances, many distributors reported an increase in overall sales compared to 2011, while the remainder experienced a modest decline. Interestingly enough, total annual revenue from all participants (beyond the top 50) was $2.31 billion—almost breaking even with last year's $2.30 billion. It is important to note the absence of Dayton, Ohio-based WorkflowOne LLC. The company put forth an admirable showing with sales totaling $502,400,000 million. However, because of WorkflowOne's unique position in the market and its inability to disclose how much of that figure consisted of distributor sales versus manufacturing sales, Print+Promo was unable to accept its submission.
Although this year's number nearly matched the 2011 figure, the list consisted of some new faces. Some of the usual suspects opted not to participate this time around due to mergers and acquisitions among other reasons.
The individual product sectors proved to be discouraging. Overall, many distributors opted not to break down their total revenue according to product categories. As a result, there was hardly a hint of improvement. In fact, only two categories headed upward. Direct mail came in at $72.6 million (2011: $66.3 million) and web solutions (e.g., PURLs, QR codes and software) climbed to $24.0 million (2011: $14.3 million).
Aside from a lower dollar amount, the top three breakout products remained the same. Promotional products retained its number-one status with $284.5 million (2011: $285.0 million). Commercial printing nabbed second place with sales averaging at $222.1 million (2011: $236.8 million). And even though business forms still proved to be king for the top suppliers, they finished third among the distributors with $165.2 million (2011: $183.2 million).
The remaining categories had the following endings: Labels and tags accounted for $82.0 million (2011: $84.0 million); e-commerce comprised $99.4 million in sales (2011: $125.6 million); and envelopes/folders/stationery averaged $55.0 million (2011: $60.2 million).