Specialize with Multi-Part Forms
Adding custom features to multi-part forms can maintain profitability.
Conventional wisdom dictates abandoning a sinking ship. And, likewise, many would counsel a shift away from selling declining product lines, such as multi-part forms, in favor of growing opportunities in newer markets.
A recent industry study pegged the decline of conventional forms—which includes continuous, checks, salesbooks, pegboard and short-run forms, as well as multi-parts—at approximately 7.5 percent from 2000 to 2002. During the same period, the total retail value of products such as labels, direct mail, tags, tickets, commercial and quick printing, finishing services and promotional products rose approximately 4.2 percent.
It seems intuitive to drop declining product lines for those experiencing growth in order to see sales grow. After all, if more and more customers want something, shouldn't that be where sales are concentrated?
Not so fast, say manufacturers of these venerable forms. While they acknowledge that sales of multi-parts have dipped, they point out a steady need for both basic and value-added forms in this product line, which distributors can still profitably exploit.
"Our sales on multi-part forms have gone down just a little over the last five years," said Kenneth Adams, owner of Central States Business Forms, Dewey, Okla. "But, multi-parts still account for 60 percent of our sales. Other products have declined more."
Marsha Bishop, forms sales and customer service manager for The Vallis Companies, Glendale Heights, Ill., said that multi-part forms were "definitely on the decline," accounting for 50 percent or less of the manufacturer's sales. "We're trying to put value to those business forms by adding things such as labels and cards," she said.
Becky Douthat, vice president of National Business Forms, Greenville, Tenn., said, "We're busy, but with unit sets, it's been a gradual decline. Multi-parts have fewer parts now, and continuous has given way to cut-sheets." She echoed Bishop's assessment that sales and growth in multi-part orders will come primarily from more specialized products. "Plain vanilla orders are down," she said, "but for unit sets, we have lots of unique bells and whistles—pattern perfs, jumbo numbers and transfer tape, as well as value-added affixed labels, pressure-sensitive labels and diecutting. Those orders have been steady."