Behind every manufacturing arm is a true champion—someone eager to execute a vision, someone who can sell a product into new revenue-generating buckets and, most importantly, someone who leverages his or her partner’s capabilities for the greater good of customers. In our industry, that someone is a distributor.
Last month, Print+Promo detailed trade printers’ total annual revenue for the last completed fiscal year. Numbers came in at $2.57 billion, short of 2015’s $2.74 billion, which can best be explained as a side effect of recent economic and political uncertainties. Would the other side of the supply chain share the same fate?
The results were encouraging. Not only did distributors up the total from last year’s $2.91 billion, they put forth their best performance since 2009’s $3.4 billion, finishing at $3.21 billion. While the same companies held on to their respective rankings in our top four, they all enjoyed monetary increases. Chicago-based InnerWorkings Inc. cemented its billion-dollar status with $1.03 billion in sales. Cleveland-based Proforma reported $532.8 million compared to 2015’s $497.9 million. Glenwood, Minnesota-based American Solutions for Business’ figures advanced to $242.7 million, a departure from its previously submitted $211.4 million. Wayland, Massachusetts-based iPROMOTEu improved upon its 2015 showing of $121.0 million with $138.1 million. And, after a brief absence, Hunt Valley, Maryland-based WebbMason Marketing reemerged in time for our 2016 list with an impressive $120.0 million—enough to knock Batavia, Ohio-based Kaeser & Blair out of fifth place.
Mergers and acquisitions caused additional shake-ups in this year’s list. A closer look at New York-based Smart Source LLC’s sales revealed a significant jump ($115.6 million versus 2015’s $58.3 million). Perhaps that’s because the Thomas D’Agostino Jr.-led organization acquired Duluth, Georgia-based Data Supplies Inc. in January. (Data Supplies Inc. generated $58.9 million in 2015.) Missing from this year’s list were Cleveland-based Stuart & Associates and Mabelvale, Arkansas-based B&B Solutions, both of whom were acquired by HDS Marketing (a Pittsburgh-based company debuting at No. 15 on our list) and Shoreview, Minnesota-based Deluxe Corporation, respectively. And for those wondering what happened to Tigard, Oregon-based DocuSource, a Safeguard Company—the distributorship, along with Safeguard companies Advent and Formit, now comprise No. 16-ranked Inspired Results LLC.
Individual product sectors were a mixed bag, though more than half contributed to the upward trend. Promotional Products, again, held on to top billing with $404.5 million (2015: $364.7 million). Commercial Print landed at $272.6 million (2015: $248.2 million). Labels & Tags shot up to $106.1 million (2015: $92.9 million). Direct Mail reached $77.8 million (2015: $74.6 million). And, Marketing & Creative Services climbed to $48.9 million (2015: $32.4 million).
The remaining categories weren’t as successful. Printed Forms dropped to $133.3 million (2015: $182.8 million). Envelopes/Folders/Stationery declined to $74.0 million (2015: $79.8 million). Plastic Products/Cards fell to $15.7 million (2015: $20.1 million).
The biggest upset belonged to the “Other” category. Sales only accounted for $62.2 million compared to 2015’s $101.9 million—a much different narrative than last year’s “most improved” rating. Common responses for this sector included:
- Office supplies
- Electronic imaging
- Mailing equipment
- Stamps and graphics
- E-commerce solutions
- Warehousing and fulfillment
- Billing and check processing
Some of these entries may skew the “Other” category; the decision to consider apparel, for example, as miscellaneous instead of Promotional Products is left to the distributor’s discretion.
In response to the explosiveness of the wide-format market, Print+Promo created a separate category, called Signs, Displays & Wide-Format Printing. Sales totaled $48.9 million. Check back next November for what we expect to be a revenue boost.
The Top 50 Promotional Products Distributors chart returned for another year. Published in May 2016 by our sister publication Promo Marketing (PM), the list is based on 2015 promotional revenue. According to PM’s calculations, total promotional products sales among the top 50 continued to rise steadily, reaching close to $4.6 billion—about $400,000 more than last year’s tally.
That about does it for 2016. We congratulate each and every company that made the lists and look forward to even bigger victories in 2017.
(Editor’s note: Factors to consider when interpreting sales figures are ongoing industry consolidations and responses reporting idiosyncrasies.)
Related story: 2016 Top 50 Distributors List
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.