Printers Off Bottom; New Hires, Adjustments in Works
Steady on revenue, adding jobs, investments to meet digital shift
Commercial printers here stopped the bleeding and started down a path toward recovery last year.
The 30 largest commercial printers combined to post a decline in local revenue of less than 1% to $525 million for the 12 months through March, according to this week’s Business Journal list.
That followed an 11.3% drop in revenue the prior year.
Hiring also started to come back last year as local printers increased employment by 1% to 1,880 employees.
Los Alamitos-based Trend Offset Printing Services Inc. kept the No. 1 spot on the list with $250 million in local revenue, according to a Business Journal estimate.
Printers making up the rest of the top five all moved up a space.
R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., which was No. 2 on last year’s list, fell off this year after shifting its printing operations to facilities outside Orange County. The company keeps a sales office here.
Lone Revenue Gainer
No. 2 Irvine-based Dot Printer Inc. reported a 5.2% increase for the 12 months through March to $24.5 million.
The printer was the only one in the top five to increase revenue.
That could change this year.
“I’m optimistic that we’ve seen the worst of the economic decline and we’re going to start moving forward,” said Tarek Korraa, president of No. 9 Orange County Printing.
The Irvine-based printer, which is one of more than 70 throughout the nation owned by Texas-based Consolidated Graphics Inc., moved up three spots on the list with $12.3 million in revenue for the 12 months through March, up 15% from a year earlier.
Orange County Printing increased its local workforce by about 18% to 65 employees, with the addition of mostly manufacturing jobs, Korraa said.
The company added wide-format capabilities and now is seeing a lot of demand from schools and restaurant companies such as Lake Forest-based Johnny Rockets Restaurant Group Inc. and Baja Fresh, part of Cypress-based RD Restaurant Group Inc.
Last year’s sales increase was the result of offering web-to-print, online marketing options, printed items outside of traditional ink on paper and other new services, Korraa said.
“We’ve invested quite a bit in making sure those services continue to grow and improve,” Koraa said.
Shift to Digital
Among the investments was a third digital press at Orange County Printing, underscoring an industrywide shift that has been occurring for the last few years driven by the growth of the Internet and social media.
“It’s moving more toward providing solutions rather than reacting to estimates,” said Dot Printer Chief Executive Bruce Carson.
The trend toward digital means offering more to clients than simply print marketing campaigns, Carson said.
Instead, Dot Printer is expanding its fulfillment business and eyeing acquisition of marketing-oriented companies that “control the (marketing) data or creative companies that have a strong position in the vertical market that can help us use our technology along with our creative ability,” Carson said.
Last year, No. 8 Foothill Ranch-based Westamerica Graphics Corp. began offering online storefronts for clients. The storefronts, built to look like an offshoot of a company’s actual website, allow clients to place orders online for corporate marketing materials.
“Print is not dead by any means, but it isn’t just about buying print anymore because we need to,” said Westamerica President Doug Grant. “(Clients) buy print because it works and it works best when it’s tied in with an integrated marketing campaign.”
That can mean anything from internet marketing to email and quick-response barcodes for cell phones, Grant said.
Westamerica saw local revenue for the 12 months through March fall nearly 20% to $12.6 million, but Grant still called last year a good one.
One-time projects for credit card and pharmaceutical companies gave Westamerica a boost in 2009 sales.
“We had a nice bump in 2009 that was a happy circumstance,” Grant said. “For us, 2010 was actually a good year and we hit our projections.”
Waiting on Sales
While advertising and public relations agencies are seeing clients increase marketing spending, commercial printers have yet to see the full impact of that on their business.
“We have seen marketing budgets increase a little bit, so I think people generally want to be optimistic about the economy and growth,” Grant said, “but it hasn’t necessarily translated into additional sales for us.”
Featured in the Orange County Business Journal: April 17, 2011