Growing Beyond Forms
Offering new products and services boosts the bottom line
By Janet R. Gross
Diversification into new services and products kept most distributors growing in 1997 and optimistic for 1998. Although forms still make up about half of distributors' total sales, non-forms products and services are an expanding part of the picture.
In an exclusive Business Forms, Labels & Systems survey, 82 percent of respondents said they now offer promotional products. Commercial printing is sold by nearly all surveyed. Bar-coded products are part of the lineup for 82 percent of survey respondents and direct mail services are offered by 58 percent. More than a third offer electronic printing products.
Jerry Spears, president of Bank and Business Systems, Little Rock, Ark., has seen the product mix shift from 85 percent forms at the beginning of the decade to between 40 percent and 45 percent forms now. Spears noted that orders are "completely different" now than five years ago--shorter runs, fewer parts and more laser cut sheets.
Allan Johnson, president of Gulf Coast Data Supply, Pensacola, Fla., said there's still a lot of traditional forms business, but 35 percent of his $1.15 million in sales comes from products such as office supplies.
Ron Whalen, president of E.U.F., Azusa, Calif., has seen four-color jobs and promotional products each go from zero to several hundred thousand dollars in sales in the past six years. Meanwhile, stock tab has "totally dried up," Whalen said. It has been replaced with more profitable value-added electronic and Internet forms.
Similarly, Dean Horn, president of $3.7 million Rath Resources & Automation, Bellefontaine, Ohio, has stretched his business' scope to reflect changing times. Five years ago, he purchased a printing company to add four-color process work to his repertoire. Horn has expanded his tag printing operation which sells to distributors nationwide and is undergoing an 18-month certification for the ISO 9000 quality program. He also plans to buy a sign and banner printer and to hire a specialist in promotional products.