For printing franchisee, tech transition was key

To keep up with change in the printing To keep up with change in the printing business, Sir Speedy owner Jack Bloom, right, and his sons, from left, Brandon and Evan, remodeled their Westbury operation, closing retail locations and targeting small to mid-size businesses. (Sept. 19, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

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Over 21 years in business the Bloom family has seen printers come and go.

"A combination of the economy and technology impacted everybody," says Jack Bloom, who with his sons owns the largest Sir Speedy franchise on Long Island, headquartered in Westbury.

With fewer dollars being spent on printed marketing materials and less income coming in, many printers couldn't afford to invest in the new digital technology required to compete effectively, he says.

"There were those who were slow to change or didn't change and those are the people that are gone," says Bloom, 66, who bought the franchise in 1992 and serves as president.

By 1998, the Blooms recognized that in order to compete they needed to move their business model beyond being a traditional retail print shop. Over the past five years they've completed the transition, closing their retail locations and instead opening sales offices that target the small to mid-size business market. They've also diversified into ancillary services such as signage and email marketing.

"It's a new industry," says Andrew Paparozzi, chief economist for the National Association for Printing Leadership, an East Rutherford, N.J.-based trade group.

"It requires new methods, mindsets and approaches." Printers can't do business the same old way, he says. "The companies excelling . . . are satisfying a broader range of their [clients'] communication needs."

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For their part, the Blooms have invested more than $500,000 in new technology over the past five years. One key purchase: a $100,000-plus digital press, added in 2012 to produce signage, says Brandon Bloom, 37, chief operating officer.

"A lot of the same people that buy print and marketing services also buy signage," says Evan Bloom, 40, chief marketing officer. He predicts signage could become 20 percent or more of their business in the next two years.

As "early implementers" of the new business-to-business sales model, also emphasized by the Sir Speedy chain, the company was able to maintain cash flow and pay for the new equipment through a combination of leasing, borrowing and reinvesting profits, Jack Bloom said.

Digital printing is still the company's core business, but the way it sells it has changed.

In the early '90s, the franchise operated as a traditional print shop making copies and fliers. But it became clear walk-in customers weren't enough. "The business generated by walk-ins is lower-ticket items," explains Evan Bloom.

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When they began transitioning from walk-ins to selling directly to businesses in 1998, Brandon Bloom says, his first big step was joining the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce. At the time, the Blooms were splitting production between two high-traffic retail locations in East Meadow and Westbury, both of which they've since closed.

In 2008 they moved to their present 5,600-square-foot production facility in an industrial park in Westbury, and in 2010 they opened sales offices in Hauppauge and Melville. There are four other Sir Speedy locations on Long Island owned by other franchisees.

As part of their growth strategy, the Blooms have acquired four smaller printers over the past six years.

The company is consistently recognized as a top Sir Speedy franchisee, ranking 13th last year based on 2012 revenue. It's "very well respected" within the franchise network, says Richard Lowe, president of Mission Viejo, Calif.-based Franchise Services Inc., Sir Speedy's parent.

The Blooms hope to double sales within five years. "Print isn't going away," says Jack Bloom. "It's just changed in the way it's produced and used."


AT A GLANCE

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Name: Sir Speedy of Westbury, Hauppauge and Melville.

Co-owners: Jack, Evan and Brandon Bloom.

Product: Print, signage and marketing services.

Employees: 12.

Annual revenues: $2 million-plus

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