Cut-Sheet Products Continue to Rise
Laser printer technology plus creative form designs equal new opportunities for distributors and end-users.
It's been many years since laser printers infiltrated the print market and began affecting the buying behaviors of end-users. Since the modern equipment came on the scene, dot matrix printers became passé, and soon everyone wanted in on the new trend. As a direct result, cut-sheet products became increasingly popular, while continuous forms experienced a, well, continuous slump.
While this is old news for some, it's still big news for many others in the business forms industry. According to those interviewed and many others, there are end-users out there still making the switch from dot matrix to laser, only now they tend to include a growing number of small companies—those who can afford the equipment once only purchased by larger companies with big budgets.
Products in Demand
This influx of smaller-company business, combined with usual orders, has increased the sales of both traditional and not-so-traditional cut-sheet products for many companies.
For instance, Robert Harmison, president of Team Forms, Phoenix, indicated that, for him, the demand for cut-sheet checks is growing by leaps and bounds. "Smaller businesses can now afford programs to print checks on laser printers," he said. "I've noticed that the quantities have been dropping. So, instead of 5,000 continuous, I'll get more frequent orders for 2,000 laser checks, which helps end-users keep down inventory."
Sandra Shepard, marketing manager, DFS Business Group, Townsend, Mass., has experienced the same rise in demand for checks, particularly since DFS produces checks compatible with more than 2,000 software packages.
But, not only are smaller businesses taking advantage of the efficiency of cut-sheet checks, but they're also going for the efficiency of products such as integrated forms and pressure-seal mailers.
"Our manufacturing niche has traditionally been short-run, fast-turnaround checks, forms and spot-color commercial print cut-sheets, but we're also offering specialty products now, such as integrated form/label pieces and pressure-seal mailers," said Bill Reid, director of marketing, Printegra, Peachtree City, Ga. "Even small companies are taking advantage of the efficiency our specialty products offer."
Reid explained that integrated products eliminate matching errors and the need to maintain multiple product inventories. For small to medium-sized offices, which have more limited resources, pressure-seal mailers eliminate the need to manually fold documents and stuff envelopes. "These mailers get rid of the need for envelopes altogether," he said.
Reid added that pressure-seal cut-sheet mailers are yet another product growing in popularity in the short-run market due to the availability of low-cost folder/sealer equipment.
Integrated form/label and form/card products include packing lists with integrated shipping labels, parking decals, returned goods forms with a label, membership notices and ID cards, and promotional mailings with discount cards.
Pressure-seal mailers include payroll and accounts payable checks, marketing mailings, invoices and statements, school transcripts and grade reports.
While it's clear that smaller businesses are jumping on the cut-sheet bandwagon, distributors may be wondering from which markets they come. According to Reid, market opportunities are unlimited. "We sell to many distributors who are vertical market specialists," he said. "Some of those markets include financial, hospitality, educational, manufacturing and retail."
He added that many of those distributors have focused on developing software alliances with vertical market software companies whose software products require cut-sheet checks and forms. "Basically, any customer using a sheet-fed printer is a good prospect for cut-sheet products," said Reid.
According to Harmison, the automotive market is another place to solicit, as well as credit unions, which need customer statements, and the casino gaming industry. "The automotive market is heading more and more toward cut-sheets. I don't know what is driving that—perhaps new machines in dealerships," he said. "I do know that this market uses pre-collated cut-sheets to produce service invoices that are more easily distributed for accounting use."
He also noted that the gaming industry is a hot spot because many casinos are moving toward laser printer usage.
Headquartered in Burlington, N.J., Paris Business Products provides a complete line of high-quality, value-added stock cut-sheet products to meet a variety of financial, health-care and general purpose applications.
For instance, the Laser3 line consists of blank perfed and punched 100 percent registered bond papers in a variety of weights and sizes that can be used for coupons, invoices, statements, reports and a variety of forms. The line was originally created in response to consolidation in the health-care industry, which has forced adaptation to common data, data processing systems and reporting.
The Security Papers line provides papers and checks featuring overt and covert features to deter fraud—a hot button with government, health-care professionals and private businesses.
So, how can one sell cut-sheets effectively? According to Shepard, distributors should first try to match cut-sheet products to their customers' software. "A good way to move into custom cut-sheet products is when a customized software package is being used," she said. "Talk to the end-users and get to know their systems."
Still, there may be certain obstacles to overcome in the cut-sheet market. For instance, Reid said that the biggest challenge Printegra's distributors face today in promoting cut-sheets are customers or prospects who may be considering printing their companies' own documents on blank paper. He explained that a printing equipment manufacturer will often actively promote printing on blank stock as a way to decrease the cost of consumables and justify the cost of their equipment.
"The increased cost of toner cartridges, along with the decreased quality of the companies' printed images, should be considered before making a decision to switch to a blank stock," he said. "Printegra provides an informative brochure that can help distributors explain to their customers all of the factors that should be considered before switching to blank stock."
Presenting oneself as an educated distributor familiar with printing processes and paper stock is also a big plus when it comes to making the sale.
Shepard advised that to make a better impression, one should know his or her inks and stationery. "It's good for distributors to know that thermography, or raised ink, should not be used, as it can melt and cause streaking," she said. "A smooth sheet works best, but textured stationery stocks are used often."
In the Future
In terms of how cut-sheets will fare in the future, Reid said that cut-sheet sales will continue to go up as continuous sales continue to go down. "To counter this decline, our cut-sheet product line needs to provide customers with a strong value proposition," he said. "We have focused on providing a competitively priced cut-sheet product that offers many document security, design and construction options. This, along with our continued focus on the short-run segment of the market, will continue to fuel our cut-sheet growth."
Harmison agreed that cut-sheets are poised for long-term growth. Over the past few years, his company has experienced a 50 percent increase in demand for the product. "This is where the market is," he said. "Laser printers are less costly these days, and more end-users are taking advantage of that."
By Sharon Cole