Leaders of the Pack
Onward and Upward for Ennis
From a small, rural company serving the cotton industry to a complete printed products manufacturer with 46 production facilities, Midlothian, Texas-based Ennis has been dedicated to serving the wholesale printing industry for 96 years. The company reported more than $559 million in sales for its last fiscal year. Although that figure represents a decrease from the previous year’s $582 million, Ennis still captured the top spot in BFL&S’ manufacturers ranking for the second year in a row.
At the heart of the company’s success is a strategic plan based on growth through acquisitions that fit Ennis’ existing business model and compliment its product offerings, said Keith Walters, president and CEO. For instance, he pointed out that Tennessee Business Forms/Avant-garde (TBF),
Tullahoma, Tenn., and Specialized Printed Forms, Caledonia, N.Y. are both traditional forms companies offering special niche products, such as integrated forms, tags, labels and cards. Ennis had been outsourcing this work to other vendors prior to acquiring the companies.
As for the recently acquired Block Graphics, Portland, Ore., Walters explained the company has a very strong presence up in the Northwestern United States, and Ennis wanted to strengthen its presence in the region. “Block Graphics produces envelopes, and is one of the better envelope converters in the wholesale market,” Walters said. Prior to the acquisition, Ennis only imprinted envelopes. “We didn’t have the capability to convert,” he recalled.
Undoubtedly, the merger with Alstyle Apparel launched a significant growth platform for Ennis. Promotional apparel is its highest-earning product category, accounting for more than 42 percent of sales. Forms follow close behind, generating more than 41 percent, while commercial printing is the third highest product group, driving 10 percent of the business. Looking forward, Ennis intends to focus on growing its label line.
Probably one of the best measures of Ennis’ success is the fact that the company was recognized as a valuable business partner by three of the largest distributorships during their respective annual conventions and sales meetings. Headquartered in Cleveland, Program selected Ennis for a vendor appreciation award in the business forms category, while Indianapolis-based International Solutions for Business presented the company with an industry leadership award. Ennis also received a top vendor award from American Solutions for Business, Glennwood, Minn.
Operating in four business segments—Forms Solutions Group, Promotional Solutions Group, Financial Solutions Group and Apparel Solutions Group—Ennis is on track for a repeat performance in next year’s ranking.
Champion Industries Forges Ahead Despite Uncertain Economy
Ranked third last year, Champion Industries, Huntington, W. Va., grew its sales an additional $10 million to place second in the current ranking.
While commercial printing accounts for 40 percent of the company’s $135 million in sales, the various divisions that comprise Champion Industries together offer a full range of products, including forms, cut sheets, tags and a wide variety of web printing.
“Champion Industries is committed to providing a complete line of printing services in order to meet all aspects of the customer’s needs,” said President Toney Adkins. “We are continuing to enhance these lines with ancillary services, such as print-on-demand, mailing services and fulfillment.”
Strategic mergers and acquisitions over the years have helped Champion Industries remain a consistent top producer. The enterprise consists of 14 divisions: Blue Ridge Printing Company; Carolina Cut Sheets; The Chapman Printing Company; Consolidated Graphic Communications; Consolidated Graphics; Champion Graphic Communications; Donihe Graphics; Interform Solutions; The Merten Company; US Tag & Ticket; Stationers Inc.; Capitol Business Interiors; Champion-Clarksburg; and Smith & Butterfield.
“Potential acquisitions are always being examined,” Adkins commented. “Although there is no specific acquisition planned at this time, we continue to look for companies that will fit into the corporate profile and footprint, both geographically and strategically.”
Despite its obvious success, Champion Industries, like most companies in today’s marketplace, is being challenged by rising operating costs. Adkins and Champion Industries CEO, Marshall Reynolds, feel the increasing cost of employee benefits is probably the largest problem facing business owners. “The employee benefit package, including health insurance, 401K, social security, worker compensation, federal and state unemployment taxes and normal vacation and holiday pay, are far too expensive,” said Reynolds. “It’s getting harder and harder for printers to keep up with the expenses of employee benefit packages.”
He went on to say that another problem facing the printing industry is an overabundance of equipment in comparison with the needs of the present economy.
Still, during the first nine months of the year, Champion Industries increased its sales and profits beyond that of the same period of time for every other year. “Sales and profits have been at a record level for the first three quarters of the fiscal year, and we consider this our greatest success of the year thus far,” said Adkins.
The company has several priorities for 2007, including further sales increases. “Another priority for Champion Industries is to concentrate on controlling and reducing costs for increased profitability,” Adkins concluded.
Western States Envelope & Label’s Unique Capabilities Drive Profits
Advancing from fourth to third place this year, Western States Envelope & Label, Butler Wis., is the only label manufacturer with The Mark Andy DT. President and CEO Mark Lemberger said the press has had a huge impact on his company’s label sales. “This piece of equipment gives us the ability to produce extremely high-quality printed and die-cut labels on demand. The digital UV ink jet print engine combined with the laser die cutting station avoid the time and expense required to make plates and purchase dies for conventional equipment,” he explained. “Our label sales continue to grow at a 25 percent annual rate as customers take advantage of our unique ability to produce low-cost, high-quality, custom-printed labels with a short lead time.”
The company is currently in the midst of an aggressive label sales initiative, making distributors aware of the competitive advantage available to them, and providing educational resource materials and tips for successful label sales.
“We just published the Label Resource Guide, a comprehensive tool providing a wealth of information about labels and label stocks. It’s the ultimate primer on how to create the perfect label,” Lemberger added.
In addition, profits are getting a boost from the F.L.Smithe SR envelope folding machine with inline ESP (enhanced servo press) flexographic printing press that the company recently purchased. “This machine is the most advanced envelope folding and printing machine ever built,” Lemberger commented. “It’s loaded with servo technology for quick set-ups and high-speed operation, and the ESP press takes flexo printing for envelopes to a new level. Four-color process printing on coated stock is now much quicker and more economical.”
Ongoing improvements in its manufacturing processes also help to keep Western States Envelope & Label at the top of the ranking. Lemberger noted that the company’s Kaizen philosophy-based lean initiative has helped in developing quick response manufacturing techniques that significantly reduce lead times and improve efficiencies.
He went on to say the biggest problem facing independent distributors today is the constant pricing pressure being applied by the large consolidators of printing operations and distributorships. “Many of these large entities try to commoditize our products and services,” observed Lemberger. “We must constantly bring new value to the table to differentiate ourselves. Distributors need to align themselves with suppliers who can help them to build customer relationships based upon value and performance, as well as competitive pricing.”
Printegra Prospers by Fulfilling Distributors’ Needs
With an increase of nearly $18 million in sales, Printegra, Peachtree City, Ga., advanced four spots this year to secure fourth place. The company’s success can be attributed to several strategies. “In 2006, we had great success with the growth of our print shop initiative. We now have print shops that are housed in seven of our nine Printegra facilities,” said Bill Reid, director of marketing. According to Reid, the growth of Printegra’s print shops is a result of distributors’ needs for a wholesale source of standard print shop products, including commercial printed sheets, envelopes, prescription pads, digital color printing and black-and-white printing with bindery and finishing capabilities.
“We are [a] trade-only [printer], and provide competitive pricing, standard packaging, fast turnaround, fax/e-mail acknowledgements, drop shipping and online exact repeat reordering,” Reid explained. “Many of these distributor service requirements were lacking in their local print shop.” Printegra found further print shop success by partnering with experienced distributors who also own print shops, but choose not to manufacture products in-house.
In addition, substantial cross-selling and cross-marketing opportunities are surfacing from the company’s acquisition of National Imprint Corporation (NIC), a manufacturer of envelopes and stationery. Cross-selling to both Printegra and NIC customers will become a top priority for Printegra in the upcoming year as it attempts to increase top-line growth. The company also hopes to expand its print shop capabilities by adding digital color and black-and-white capabilities.
Reid acknowledged that new product and service developments are some of the biggest challenges the industry currently faces. It is important, he said, to keep products and services in the forefront of distributors’ minds. “With many new distributor sales reps selling advertising specialty products, sometimes it is difficult for wholesale manufacturers to educate these reps on the strong profits and repeat base that can be achieved by selling consumable business documents and labels,” he observed.
Printegra is one of the largest manufacturers of short run business printing sold through distributors, operating 13 manufacturing facilities. The company will continue to actively search for acquisition opportunities to add to its growing family of companies.
PrintXcel Celebrates Past Success and Future Growth
Festive balloons, decorative gift boxes and delicious cake attracted visitors to Montrose, Alabama-based PrintXcel’s booth during Print Solutions 2006, held Oct. 3-5 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention and Conference Center in Rosemont, Ill. The company had much to celebrate, including the fact that it claimed the No. five spot in this year’s BFL&S Top Manufacturers ranking, with close to $85 million in sales generated primarily by business document orders. In addition, PrintXcel was acknowledging the 10th anniversary of its VersaSeal brand.
“VersaSeal has been, and continues to be, a growth product for us, and we believe this will continue in the future,” said Deanna Day, senior product manager. “PrintXcel had a number of successes during 2006, but realizing that we were the first to market this solution to our industry and that we have remained the leader for this period of time is very gratifying.”
When asked about strategic planning for 2007, Day said making distributors more aware of the company’s entire product line is a top priority. “We have other great products that haven’t received the same focus as our VersaSeal brand, such as our direct mail, process print and integrated products,” she explained. “Also, because of the partnership with our sister brand Wisco Envelope, we can truly provide a total mailing solution. Wisco Envelope’s conversion and four-color process capabilities allow us to create the perfect mail piece.”
Like all manufacturers, PrintXcel is adjusting to an ever-changing marketplace and capitalizing on the new opportunities this creates. “The industry is constantly evolving and that is exciting,” observed Day.
“Unfortunately, we also have to deal with, and adapt to, declining demand for traditional products which creates a vicious cycle of overcapacity and pricing pressures,” Day commented. “With that being said, we need to remind ourselves that this is still a huge marketplace, and our customers are still seeking solutions to their print distribution problems. Our expertise in developing and implementing solutions for our clients is how we remain successful.”
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