Print+Promo repeatedly touts the importance of strong supply-chain partnerships. Last month, we concentrated on top revenue-generating trade printers—those companies that work hard to help distributors turn a profit, whether it be through idea-sharing, sales support or new technology offerings. Their performance turned heads, with total annual sales for the last completed fiscal year reaching numbers that haven’t been reported since 2009. Would the other half of this partnership share the same fate?
We are pleased to announce that distributors continued the upward trend. Similar to the suppliers, this year’s top distributors put forth their highest numbers since 2009’s $3.4 billion, finishing at $2.91 billion. This figure does not include numbers from heavy-hitter WebbMason, Hunt Valley, Md., a company that produced $104.0 million in sales last year—enough to place fifth in our 2014 chart.
While the same distributorships held on to their respective rankings in our top three, they all enjoyed monetary increases. Chicago-based InnerWorkings Inc. is officially a billion-dollar company, up from last year’s $891.0 million. Cleveland-headquartered Proforma reported $497.9 million this time around compared to 2014’s $464.8 million. Meanwhile, Glenwood, Minnesota-based American Solutions for Business’ numbers advanced to $211.4 million, a departure from its previously reported $195.5 million. Wayland, Massachusetts-based iPROMOTEu’s $121.0 million was enough to retain fourth place, nevertheless an improvement from 2014’s sales of $106.0 million. And with WebbMason out of this year’s competition, Batavia, Ohio-based Kaeser & Blair Inc. rounded out the top five with $97.3 million, also a boost compared to last year’s $93.5 million.
Individual product sectors were more of a mixed bag. Four categories took a hit in sales. Promotional Products still received top billing, though sales fell to $364.7 million (2014: $388.3 million). Printed Forms declined to $182.8 million (2014: $183.5 million). Direct Mail landed at $74.6 million (2014: $92.4 million). The biggest upset belonged to Commercial Print, which had sales drop to $248.2 million (2014: $301.4 million).
The remaining categories were more fortunate. Labels & Tags consisted of $92.9 million (2014: $91.6 million). Plastic Products/Cards accounted for $20.1 million (2014: $15.9 million). Envelopes/Folders/Stationery jumped to $79.8 million (2014: $78.3 million). Web Solutions shot up to $103.4 million (2014: $94.7 million).
The “Other” category had the best improvement rate with $101.9 million (2014: $89.5 million), which suggests more companies are using ancillary products and services as a complement to core items. Common responses for this sector included:
- Office supplies
- Barcode ribbons
- Mailing equipment
- Custom packaging
- Banners and signs
- In-house print shops
- Technology services
- Fulfillment services
- Trade show displays
- Transactional printing
- Print management services
- Specialty papers and jumbo rolls
Some of these entries may skew the “Other” category; the decision to consider apparel, for example, as miscellaneous instead of Promotional Products is left to the distributor’s discretion.
As a result of consumer habits, print distributors are expected to double as marketing service providers. In response to this changing dynamic, Print+Promo introduced a new category: Marketing and Creative Services. Sales finished at $32.4 million, the lowest of any category, but we’ll check back next year.
The Top 50 Promotional Products Distributors chart returned for another year (see page 30). Published in May 2015 in our sister publication Promo Marketing (PM), the list is based on 2014 promotional revenue. As evidenced by PM’s interviews, success is the culmination of hard work. Not only are promo distributors challenging the status quo, they are redefining it through unparalleled customer service, technology investments and diverse product lines.
That’s a wrap for 2015. We congratulate each and every company that made either list and can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2016. Those who dream big will win big. View the complete list here.
(Editor’s note: Factors to consider when interpreting sales figures are ongoing industry consolidations and responses reporting idiosyncrasies.)
Related story: TOP 50 DISTRIBUTORS: Core Values