When putting together this blog-site, with the purpose of interacting with our North Shore customers and to time with the rebranding from PrintStop to printing.com, we reflected back on the history of the company. How did printing.com come to be? and, like many of our customers ask, how did we manage to have such a “valuable” name – printingdotcom? We found there was an interesting story to tell…
It all began, over 20 years ago in 1990 in the UK…
The business evolved from the present Chief Executive’s exploits in the nightclub industry. Originally, nightclub promotion gave way to the production of nightclub Flyers, proving the mainstay of the early printing work.
Early day artisan Flyers (thermography, foil blocking etc) gave way to batch production and a more homogenised product, however one that was more efficient to produce, usable for a great variety of market segments and very importantly, profitable.
By 1994, turnover had passed the £500k mark and the integration to production, with prepress and certain ancillary finishing had begun.
The objective was to extend the business model from the nightclub and leisure sector (back then the business was called Creation Publicity) through to the SME market.
This was the basis of a plan that was put forward to raise venture capital in 1995. Various financial offers were secured and a deal was done with a firm of traditional printers who were effectively “selling up”. This provided a cash injection and a production facility (Cow Lane, Salford) that was the home to the company for over 8 years.
The SME market was first targeted via a reseller program called ‘Colour Card’. Colour Card offered a trade only service at discounted prices across the range of Flyers, Leaflets, and Stationery etc – significantly abridged in comparison to PDC today.
The division generated turnover approaching £1million however the supply chain was highly disruptive. Very often the commitment the reseller had made to their client was inconsistent with the specification of the given product – this led to a considerable tête-à-tête (indeed Yvonne Hulse our present TF in Liverpool and Chris Jones our Head of Prepress, were front line in these days and still recall the daily challenges).
We believed there was a better way to get to the market.
Initiatives were also pioneered to sell direct to the end client. To this end, over £100k was invested in advertising during 1996 (Sunday Times, Yellow Pages and the like). The resulting trade exhibited profound geographic characteristics, despite the use of area based independent 0800 numbers. Breaking outside the local conurbation saw a marked drop off in leads per £1000 of advertising spend, the conversion of enquiries and the yield per client. Interestingly, moving outside of the Manchester conurbation to say Leeds (35 miles away) saw the same drop-off as cities and towns over 200 miles away.
We concluded that having a local point of presence was pivotal to exploiting this market but also it needed a more refined solution than the casual reseller systems.
We ‘dabbled’ with a joint venture with a Colour Card client from Sheffield during 1997, selling to the end client in the local business community.
James Hughes (PDC Northern Regional Director), a recent graduate recruit took on the process and we were encouraged by the results. However, the objectives of ourselves and the joint venture partner were not aligned.
We were keen to open another store but one that this time we would own ourselves to avoid any of the previous problems and we wanted to do so in a city that was far enough away from Manchester to show it could be operated ‘at arm’s length’. Accordingly, we recruited PDC’s Operations Director Peter Gunning, who while still just 23, was a Colour Card client and keen on pioneering something similar in Edinburgh. The Outlet opened November 1998 with Peter and Evelyn Hamilton (the current TF for Edinburgh). A second directly owned outlet opened in Sheffield six months later.
These outlets outperformed key financial metrics versus KallKwik and we used it as the basis for preparing a business plan to raise a further £2million. This was achieved during 2000 and led to the Company’s shares being listed on London’s then OFEX share exchange. This injection was used to fund an additional thirteen outlets.
Securing the domain name
In 2000 the domain name www.printing.com was also acquired from an American print business for consideration in excess of $1million.
The move to franchising was held off until 2002 as we wanted to be certain that the systems and software were sufficiently robust, together with the PDC marketing practice.
The Bolt-on Franchise program commenced in the first quarter 2002, with the stand-alone franchise model launched later that year