Continuous Forms Provide Continuous Profits
The trick is to identify key markets and then add value through service and related products.
It may have seen its heyday come and go but, according to many, continuous product is still a viable profit center for distributors. The key is in paying attention to where and how it's used.
For most manufacturers, sales volume on continuous is stagnant or suffering a slight decline, but they say that's no reason to write off this traditional product.
"Our overall sales are solid for the past three years, though the percentage of continuous in our sales volume is down, but it's still a majority of our business," said Richard Miller, sales manager for Calibrated Forms, Columbus, Kan., an Ennis company.
Unit sets and cut-sheets have filled in where continuous sales have eroded, Miller said, although he's running higher-volume orders in continuous. "We've seen a shift in volume to longer runs, into the millions. Short-run continuous is getting much more competitive," he said.
As small businesses who place short-run continuous orders see their line printers and other hardware becoming obsolete, "it forces a transition to laser cut-sheets," Miller said. The five-part and six-part continuous orders are "few and far between," although manufacturing companies and transportation industry businesses still provide a market, he noted.
The shrinking pie on that niche has made some forms producers "very, very hungry and extremely aggressive. They have the ability to turn orders around very quickly," Miller said.
This strategy has worked for Rotary Forms Press, a $13 million manufacturer in Hillsboro, Ohio. Marketing Manager Cathy Castner said that over the past three years, "We've maintained sales, but have been very aggressive to do that. It's very competitive."
Rotary Forms Press has entered into competitive contract pricing to get more variety of work and has seen a mix of long- and short-run orders, with many orders in the 10,000 to 15,000 range.