By Melissa Donovan
Trade-only wholesale printers are ideal for outsourcing certain jobs when a print service provider (PSP) may not have the time, capital, equipment, or staff available to complete the order. Considered true partners, trade-only wholesale printers hope to maintain a relationship with a PSP beyond one-off situations. They are handy to have on call all the time for any need.
One example, when a customer requests a trendy application. However, a print provider might not have the means to offer it at the current time. Not wanting to lose the sale, turning to a trade-only wholesale printer is an ideal alternative.
Sometimes trade-only wholesale printers are helpful if there is an in-demand application that a PSP has yet to master. There are a few top applications being outsourced right now to trade printers.
Shaheen Javadizadeh, CEO, 4over, LLC, notes three recent trends—large format, Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), and specialty finishes on the narrow format side. In regards to large format, he notes that volume in this area picked up pre-pandemic, but actually continued during COVID-19 with applications like outdoor signage, sidewalk signs, yard signs, and floor stickers.
Seconding the allure of outdoor signage’s popularity is Jeff Hartman, sign sensei, Yard Sign Ninjas. “Custom cut yard signs are a very hot item, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic era. Customers have had to celebrate holidays and birthdays from a distance; yard signs in the shape of letters, favorite characters, sports silhouettes, and graduation announcements exploded in popularity. We’ve invested heavily to be able to handle the demand and are ready for more.”
EDDM is another interesting facet to consider, especially for those wide format PSPs not used to handling direct mail but looking to avoid turning away a customer. “Executing EDDM involves specialization such as a direct connection with the USPS, bundling in a specific way, and delivering high-quantity volumes to the post office. Our customers come to us for our great price and service on EDDM, and we actively take their feedback and make updates such as expanding quantities and sizes to meet their needs,” explains Javadizadeh.
Specialty finishes is another area where Javadizadeh sees interest. “Another huge profit driver for our customers that requires special equipment is premium finishes. Our Scodix machine is one of my favorites, and it produces unique finishes like spot UV and foil quickly and at scale. That’s usually not the type of equipment that a local print provider is going to have as they don’t have the volume to support investing in that technology.”
“We’re seeing a strong shift towards more in-store signage to promote digital advertising and store-specific application (app) downloads. Bollard covers, shopping cart advertisements, and floor graphics. Traditional newspaper ads don’t seem to generate buzz for a new mobile app like in-store signage can. There is also a real craze revolving around short-run stickers. All the social media personalities love them and this is driving strong demand for digital die cut stickers in quantities of 25 to 250,” says Gene Hamzhie, CEO, FireSprint.
Packaging is another application in demand. Jennifer Hoyt, marketing communications, manager, Stouse, LLC, points to corrugated boxes and folding cartons in particular. “Corrugated boxes, like mailer and shipper boxes or fluted cartons are popular for ecommerce packaging, mail order subscription services, and even retail applications. With the pandemic, online ordering has seen huge growth in this area and people need boxes to ship their items. Folding cartons are thinner paperboard generally used on retail shelves for food products, cosmetic items, and nutraceuticals. Hundreds of new items crop up for sale in retail every day. Both types of boxes take specialized machinery to produce and have had high minimums in the past. With digital equipment, trade-only printers have entered the market giving PSPs the ability to purchase and resell the items with beautiful printing, low minimums, and popular box styles and sizes to choose from.”
Retaining a Connection
You want to have a solid relationship with a trade-only printer—if possible—before the application request comes through the door, that way you don’t have to worry about any trust issues upfront while vying for a job. This is especially true if it’s a matter of urgency.
Logistically speaking, when you are in a rush, it’s harder to focus on the important paperwork. “As a trade printer, we protect our current clients from non-trade buyers. In order to do this, we have an application process that may take a day or two to fully vet. This is a necessary step, but it’s not something you want to be waiting on if your order needs to be overnighted tomorrow,” explains Hamzhie.
The trade-only printer not only needs time to conduct due diligence, the PSP should as well. “A wholesale printer should provide top-notch customer service, the right equipment coupled with expertise to avoid potential pitfalls and obstacles. They should invest in systems that make it easy to place orders and track jobs, blind ship—to save time and money, and offer marketing tools to help one sell. Knowing that the trade-only printer meets all of these key attributes gives a PSP confidence that their partner is able to deliver on an urgent request for a hot application,” explains Hoyt.
“The value of having the relationship in advance, whether you’re a new customer or existing, is that when you have an urgent request you’re not feeling us out for the first time. The average tenure of 4over customers is well over ten years, so I’d like to think that many of the print resellers reading this likely have a relationship with us already. The advantage of being an existing customer is that you get to know our products and many options, understand our process, and get to know our team,” shares Javadizadeh.
Hamzhie agrees it is important to know the vendor before, become familiar with their practices—something that can be challenging to do under a deadline. “It is important for you, the reseller, to understand the product, quality standards, and nuances of working with a new vendor. There are well established industry standards we all try to follow, but every trade printer has its own quirks you just have to learn about through experience. What do the shipping cartons look like? How is a color match handled? How consistent will the finish be across multiple substrates or stocks?”
Building a relationship pre-job can lead to a lot less stress. “There is always a period of anxiety a PSP may go through when ordering from a new trade printer. Losing control of turn time and final quality checks, as well as the PSP wondering if they submitted the art and job specifications correctly can make anyone anxious. You want to get those feelings resolved before a time-sensitive project comes up. We do our best to communicate the aspects of each new order to build the trust quickly. After that, the proof is in the pudding as they say, does the trade printer deliver consistently on what they’ve communicated,” suggests Hartman.
“Trade printers exist because their mission is to develop deep rooted, long-term partnerships with their clients. We aspire to work with others who know the business and promote the industry as a whole. I believe I speak for all trade printers when I say we are far more interested in working with a client that orders a few small jobs every month, then a client that places one large order, never to be heard from again,” adds Hamzhie.
A Trusting Tale
Trust is a difficult emotion between any two parties—business or personal. A PSP should trust their wholesale trade-only printer to complete an application and deliver it with 100 percent effort and quality.
Hoyt points out that Stouse’s reputation as a partner would be in jeopardy if it didn’t help PSPs deliver their orders at 100 percent, which is why it is top priority. “Having said that, post-pandemic supply chain issues have been a reality that we had to face over the last year. We are transparent with our customers and communicate any issues that we come across as soon as we know about them.”
“Every trade-only printer’s life blood is the PSPs that order from them. When the PSP makes a good impression and word gets out about how awesome the end result was, everyone wins. Therefore, the trade printer has as much skin in the game to make that end result be the best it can be,” shares Hartman.
PSPs are in a unique position, they are “reaping the rewards,” according to Javadizadeh, while companies like 4over make the investments. It is because of this, that he says PSPs should trust a trade-only wholesale printer. “The cost of equipment, maintenance, substrate inventory, and staff is immense. We have economies of scale that help us procure materials and shipping at a rate that a retail or local printer can’t come close to meeting. Also, there are not many printers who have the high demand that warrants taking on the overhead needed to keep the presses continuously running.”
“We became a trade printer because we were let down by our suppliers 12 years ago. As many other trade printers did, we started as a retail shop. We understand the challenges our clients face every day. This gives us an emotional connection to the job at hand, and helps us accurately deliver on requirements. We survive by working with repeat clients within the trade. Delivering on promises is the only way we can keep the lights on long term,” admits Hamzhie.
One and Done?
PSPs can look to trade-only printers in one-off situations or down the line might become a repeat customer. In regards to new or in-demand application requests, it really depends on the PSP and whether they take the reins and realize they have the bandwidth to move the job in house.
At 4over, Javadizadeh says it is a mix of both loyal, repeat customers in addition to hundreds of new customers signing up each month. “We value both, and our goal is for new customers to have the same experience that keeps loyalists coming back for years.”
“Most of the time PSPs that are new become repeat customers. They quickly realize how easy it is to order and how competitively priced the products are, to a point where utilizing us becomes a major part of their strategy. When they come across a new application, it’s important to determine if that application is feasible and capitalize on that niche as quickly as possible,” recommends Hartman.
Approximately 94 percent of FireSprint’s business is from repeat clients. “Our foundation and our growth is almost entirely from existing clients doing more business with us,” says Hamzhie.
“Many PSPs choose to become repeat customers because Stouse offers an easy way to supplement their own product range with items that they can sell to their clients. If the wholesale provider makes it easy with margins that apply directly to the bottom line, then it’s an easy addition. For hot applications, it depends on if the end use customer job repeats or if the PSP chooses to find more clients that have a similar need,” says Hoyt.
Here’s a quick look at some of the services offered by leading trade-only wholesale printers.
Combining 4over’s quality and convenience, it is a go-to for any digital, offset, or large format printing need. The team manages a catalog of about 10,000 products—from business cards to EDDM, large format rigid signs and banners, door hangers, envelopes, car magnets, presentation folders—just to name a few. Within those products, there are over 80 stocks and 50 unique finishes. According to the company, 4over has one of the broadest catalogs in the trade-only printing business.
FireSprint offers both screen and digitally printed signs and graphics. This includes a range of rigid and roll materials such as corrugated plastic, pressure-sensitive vinyl, styrene, and PVC. Its fastest growing segment as a percentage is short-run stickers. Corrugated plastic yard signs and bollard covers have been its largest segments for many years.
ImagineThis is a premiere large format and out-of-home wholesale digital print shop. It has the capabilities to handle any large and grand format print job from billboards to wall adhesives and murals. Whether a PSP is looking for a large quantity order or needs a graphic that is too large for its in-house printers, ImagineThis has the capabilities.
Miratec Systems is a family owned, wholesale-only graphics manufacturer serving the sign industry for over 30 years. It specializes in producing finished graphics for signs, windows, walls, and floors; utilizing the latest cutting edge technologies.
Signs365 is a grand format, trade-only wholesale printer. It offers a variety of full-color, high-quality printed products produced in 24 hours. $10 Overnight Anywhere shipping is available on all products. It recently introduced Hard Cards, which is a unique, full-color, vibrant, 4-mil aluminum rigid business card offering. Durable and lightweight, Hard Cards are offered in both single- or double-sided options and are UV coated to protect the finish.
SinaLite is a wholesale trade printer serving over 20,000 print professionals and resellers across Canada and the U.S. The company helps its print partners maximize their print profits and grow their businesses with low prices, fast turnarounds, and instant quotes from an easy-to-use website.
Stouse has helped thousands of print providers for more than 40 years with specialty printed items like decals, magnets, roll labels, signs, and plastics. Examples of these products include—but are not limited to—all kinds of stickers with different types of surface materials and adhesives, numbered parking permits, and hot items like short-run corrugated boxes and folding cartons.
Yard Sign Ninjas specializes in yard signs. Yard signs can be made of several different material types as well as come in a variety of sizes. It takes pride in being able to offer as many combinations as possible to a point where it’s even developed and patented its own wire stands. By having all the options available, PSPs easily see how dedicated Yard Sign Ninjas is to providing an outstanding solution for their needs.
Trade-only wholesale printers invest in the latest tools to ensure they are prepared to handle demands for trending applications like short-run stickers or packaging—products that a PSP might not feel confident in handling on their own. Outsourcing to a trusted partner is a great alternative. Learn more about trade-only wholesale printers by visiting digitaloutput.net/webinars and viewing an archived webinar on the topic with panelists from this article.
Jun2022, DPS Magazine