Declines in Form Sales Have Stabilized
Traditional and contemporary form designs are still driving business operations.
Mark H. Clabaugh, vice president of sales and marketing for Atlanta-based PrintSouth, and Bob McAleavey, president of Specialized Printed Forms, Caledonia, N.Y., both agreed that forms products remain profitable for manufacturers and distributors alike. "Forms are still selling," said Clabaugh. "Just as we used to joke that checks were the fastest-growing dying business in the industry, end-users will continue to need printed forms for quite some time."
"True, the pie is shrinking at a rate of 2 percent a year," noted McAleavey, "but it's a pretty big pie. Forms are a $3 billion-a-year industry. The major damage was done in the early to mid 1990s, when there was a 5 percent to 7 percent loss in various product categories, but that decline has plateaued."
Consider carbon interleaved forms, which account for only 5 percent of Specialized Printed Forms' form orders. "They could be converted to carbonless, but the end-users are very comfortable with the carbon interleaved design," observed McAleavey, "and until they leave their jobs, those carbon interleaved orders are going to be here. As with unit sets, the usage has contracted, but the rate of decline has slowed."
However, McAleavey made mention of some "dinosaurs" that have essentially vanished from manufacturers' new product lines, including stencils and peg-board punching systems. He also reported a marked decline in unit sets and some continuous form products.
Where It's At
For Specialized Printed Forms, 85 percent of business is in forms products, particularly highly specialized, intricate designs that may include four-color process, complex perfs, unique numbering systems, holographic foils, integrated cards/labels, pockets, spot carbonless coatings and security features for end-users in just about every industry imaginable. For example, a retail reseller of collectible items uses archival forms featuring a pattern adhesive, intricate die cuts and complex numbering.