SOI Report: Printed Forms
ON PRINTED FORMS
The Expert: Gordon Klepec, vice president of sales and marketing, Wright Business Graphics, Portland, Ore.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the business forms sector?
Gordon Klepec: Printing is dead! Haven’t you heard? The fact that this prediction is proven false every time we get a purchase order makes my heart smile. However, as it relates to business forms, that prediction is more applicable—but still way off. Wright Business Graphics (WBG) started in the printing industry 47 years ago producing nothing but traditional business forms. To this day, it is still a very large portion of our $58 million in annual sales. Along the way, Jim Wright had the foresight to expand the “traditional business forms” product line into a “value-added” business forms product line by incorporating the ability to perform functions, such as: cross-web gluing, integrated cards and labels, variable bar codes and numbering, four-color process printing and high-speed UV printing. These additional capabilities help WBG weather the precipitous decline of the commodity business forms market and continue to produce the added value forms that end-user companies find invaluable and difficult to replace with newer product lines and software programs.
What do you think the biggest changes will be this year, and what will drive them?
GK: Personally, I don’t see any dramatic changes in the business forms market in 2017. I think we will continue to see an 8 to 15 percent overall decrease in the production of traditional forms as the gravy jobs are eaten up by other applications (i.e., thermal) and more companies will be moving toward software-driven business functions, thus eliminating the need for traditional print.
How is your company helping distributors navigate the changing forms landscape?
GK: WBG continues to help our distributors gain an advantage in the forms market in many different ways:
- Multiple production facilities. By providing them three facilities on the west coast to conveniently produce and ship their products from. WBG has extensive capabilities to fulfill almost any forms need of our distributors.
- Partnerships with our suppliers. WBG has 40-plus-year relationships with some of the industry’s strongest suppliers. We are engaged with these suppliers in all aspects of their businesses, including R&D where we are integral in helping develop state-of-the-art security features and enhancements to current products. We also have the sustained buying power of the largest independent, trade-only manufacturer on the west coast that allows us to offer our distributors the most competitive paper pricing available.
- Partnerships with other manufacturers. WBG has developed deep partnerships with other industry-leading suppliers. The Integrated Print Partners (IPP) is a partnership between Wise Business Forms (with five locations on the east coast) and WBG (with five locations on the west coast) in an effort to give our independent distributors the ability to compete coast-to-coast against nationwide direct manufacturers. This level of partnership, to help our distributors gain an advantage in the forms market, is unprecedented.
How has the recent uptick in mergers and acquisitions and closures affected the forms market?
GK: I don’t feel like the recent uptick in mergers and acquisitions has affected the forms market greatly. I believe the only thing it has done is redistribute some of the products to other suppliers, but as far as the products themselves—they are still out there.
How can the forms sector do a better job of attracting millennials?
GK: To attract millennials, I think the forms sector needs to expand its definition of what a “form” is. A form is not just a pin-fed, multipart continuous product. By partnering with the right supplier, a millennial can expand his or her definition of a “form” and, subsequently, bring life back into the forms market. Forward-thinking manufacturers, like WBG, are utilizing 70-year-old pieces of forms equipment to produce innovative products that are reshaping the forms market. One example is the Netflix envelope. No one would look at that ubiquitous red envelope and think, “I just got a traditional form in the mail,” but that is exactly what it is. We repurposed multiple jumbo collators and retrofitted them with state-of-the-art Buskro inkjet heads to image variable and IMb bar codes on the Netflix envelope, which we produce just like a unit set form. This is just one example of numerous innovations we have done to traditional products. If “mom jeans” can come back in style, we can reinvigorate business forms.
Based on past trends, what are your expectations for the short-term future of forms products? And, whom do you think the future belongs to?
GK: In my estimation, the forms market has done some leveling off in the past few years. I still believe there will be a slow decline, but there will be a need for traditional business forms in some manner. Unit set forms are much harder to replace than continuous forms and, therefore, will continue to be a necessary part of business for quite some time. As it relates to the forms market, I think the future belongs to those who have not labeled it as a “dead” market. There is still a ton of opportunity to find and grow forms sales within almost every account. As more and more people spend their time pounding the pavement for large-format orders, promotional product orders and one-off commercial orders that don’t repeat, they are leaving the door wide open for those who want to focus on traditional products that businesses rely on day in and
day out. Traditional products are the backbone of business operations, and they repeat frequently. To the salesperson, this means recurring commission checks.