Giving the business a little bit of zip

Vancouver: Zippy Print is redefining the role of a quick printer.Calling itself a business printer, the company is positioning itself as a supplier of print services to growing small businesses who want the look and feel of a large business.The Toronto-based...

Vancouver: Zippy Print is redefining the role of a quick printer.

Calling itself a business printer, the company is positioning itself as a supplier of print services to growing small businesses who want the look and feel of a large business.

The Toronto-based company is buoyed by its performance during the height of the recession in which one-third of its franchise outlets reported double-digit increases in sales revenues.

In comparison with commercial printers and retail quick printers, whose revenues are reported to have declined over a similar period, Zippy Print considers it has the inside track on industry expansion the next several years.

Now in its 13th year, Zippy Print, with 65 franchise locations in 45 cities across Canada, produces more than two million pieces of business printing daily, with annual sales in excess of $20 million.


Zippy Print owes its growth to a plan devised by Don Brenneman, a sucessful Zippy Print franchise owner.

Brenneman sold his Vancouver franchise to son Scott, in 1990, and took over the position of vice-president of market development for the corporation.

‘We knew the recession would end, and we knew that business would be different when it ended,’ he says.

‘Cost efficiencies would have to be improved in every business, including our own.’

He immediately sought the advice of printing industry consultants who recommended he begin a large-scale technical upgrade program to install the latest in computer desktop publishing tools along with new high-tech pre-press equipment.

These included color scanners and direct-to-plate imaging devices.

Brenneman also arranged partnerships with service bureaus that provide many of the technical printing services in pre-press, including color separations, typography and fine graphics.

He cites these services as a major reason for Zippy Print’s growth during hard times.

Brenneman says his plan was not a strategic plan as such, but a ‘survival plan.’

A shift

The consultants’ studies revealed a shift taking place in corporations in which many companies were doing away with the centralized print buyer and decentralizing their print needs.

This was the result of the emergence of desktop publishing.

The studies said those commercial and quick printers who did not make the move to computer desktop technologies would not remain competitive.

Significantly, they revealed that originators of documents would be making the print buying decisions. And 60 to 70% of those new decision-makers would be women who had become proficient at desktop publishing within the organization.

Today, three years later, these new print buyers and graphics creators are armed with the latest in software graphics packages.

They are now able to bypass designers by creating their own graphics and layouts.

Often, they arrive with their computer diskette, pre-formatted with color specifications.

‘These new print buyers see the business printer as the one who buys the printing equipment and is charging them time to use that equipment,’ Brenneman says.

These new print buyers are also asking for premium customer service, something they felt they could not get from commercial printers, according to the results of a focus group commissioned by Zippy Print and conducted by Vancouver-based Mackin Mailey Advertising.

The focus group found that customers wanted the job done on time and done right. And they expected overnight printing, pick-up and delivery.

Zippy responded by offering a customer guarantee program for on-time delivery.

‘Today, printers are not in control of the printing process,’ Brenneman says. ‘The creators of documents are calling the shots.’

Zippy had to revitalize its own in-house technology to meet the increasing demands of customers.

Today, new equipment sends computer-generated images direct to plate, eliminating technical support and several steps in the printing process.

Modem communications between print service bureaus now allow the Zippy franchises to produce four-color printing in batches of up to 8,000 units per hour.

New print technology helped one Zippy Print franchise deliver 75,000 four-color brochures to 10 branches in targetted batches of 3,000 each – overnight.

Brenneman says this added flexibility has allowed small businesses to segment their promotional mailings to specific audiences, creating an added value for the business printer.

‘We are not going to be the low-bidder on every print job,’ he says. ‘We are not relying on price to stay competitive.

Although Zippy Print has eroded some of the market share of commercial printers, Brenneman is not looking to compete head-to-head with the large print presses.

Zippy Print intends to limit its print runs to orders of 50,000 pieces per run, he says.

Rival small print shops, however, are in trouble.

A shakeout is looming for those shops who cannot afford to upgrade or offer high-tech turnaround color services.

Zippy Print’s marketing campaign centres around its array of printed recycled stock and numerous paper weights and stocks.

The company is also promoting its range of capabilities, including letterheads and envelopes as well as professionally bound business reports, annual reports, manuals, newsletters and full-color brochures.

As a result, it has attracted several new corporate clients, including Coca-Cola, Air Canada, American Express, Canada Post and Delta Hotels.

Four jobs

One Vancouver franchise recently picked up print work from four advertising agencies with corporate clients.

Despite its recent successes, Brenneman says Zippy has something of a challenge ahead of it to change the perception of its service from one of a quick copier service to a full-service printing facility.

The company hopes to achieve greater awareness by continuing to innovate its services through improved technology.

Outbound sales force

As part of its marketing program, Brenneman has set up an outbound sales force which visits customer sites to sell the new image as much as the new high-tech services.

‘Traditional business printing the last 10 to 15 years has been one-color, 1,000 pieces, cash basis, while-you-wait,’ he says.

‘We’re already known to have the quick-print attitude of turnaround service; now we’re in the process of redefining our image as offering all the services of a commercial printer but on a smaller scale.’

Zippy Print has made progress altering its image in recent months.

Of its services, 30% comprises copying and 70% printing services, of which 60% is more than one-color printing.

At the same time, Zippy is accelerating its installation of new technologies.

Brenneman is eager about the pilot test of a new camera processor this fall that will allow an image to be sent direct from diskette to plate and printed – in two minutes.

‘The camera is what created the printing business 20 years ago,’ he says. ‘Soon there will be technology to replace the traditional camera in printing.’


Brenneman says the drawback to high-technology is that it is expensive and some people are slow to adapt to changes.

Even so, Brenneman is optimistic the ability to innovate business printing through technology will enable Zippy Print to establish itself as a strong industry segment.

Despite the large press capability of commercial printers, he believes technology will allow business printing to remain competitive in its niche.

Thus far, Brenneman says he is ahead of his competition ‘by about 15 minutes.’

‘The Colt 45 handgun was called the great equalizer in the Old West,’ he says. ‘Technology is the great equalizer in business today.’