04 August 2017 Business

FlyerAlarm: Germany's largest is king of large format litho

Germany's largest online printer has grown through both investment and innovation and is targeting resellers in the UK.

Keith Hanson was appointed UK country manager for FlyerAlarm, the largest of Germany’s online print businesses at the start of the year.

His task has been increasing the profile of the business and growing the number of UK customers among printers and other resellers. “We are not targeting the B2C market,” he says. “It’s about producing promotional material, advertising collateral, stationery and a growing amount of wide format. It is not about personalised printing.”

In Germany the impact of online printers has been a decimation of smaller print businesses, those that had been struggling to re-equip. Instead FlyerAlarm has acted as the production muscle behind the front office where the business owner can concentrate on looking after customers.

“Not every printer wants to reinvest in technology,” says Hanson. “Using FlyerAlarm, they can outsource the printing and pay less because we can achieve the volumes needed to achieve a competitive price.”

The focus is on resellers working in the hotel and restaurant trade and agencies working for independent businesses. “Larger corporates tend to go to print management companies,” says Hanson, whose own background included print buying for marketing businesses.

Incoming work is directed to the FlyerAlarm factory in Würzburg where the company is equipped with a huge array of presses, including eight-unit perfecting Heidelberg XL162s. It generates sales of €330 million, behind only Cimpress in Europe.

The company has a strong focus on innovation and has the size to trial different products and attract the attention of suppliers wanting someone to test their technology. This has included 3D printing and Heidelberg’s Omnifire for printing on the outside of footballs.

Currently this is outside the scope of mainstream products that Hanson wants to offer to the UK. He has started to recruit account managers and handlers to provide a first line of support in this country. They will also be able to advise clients on how to improve the effectiveness of a design through choice of paper and print. “If as a result someone comes up with a better pizza leaflet that doubles sales, the little extra that they pay will not matter. And if the customer service is right, cost is less of an issue,” he says.

“We get a lot of people approaching us to ask ‘Can you print this?’, pointing to a bespoke job with different finishes needed. Most competitors will turn the job down. We will always quote it. We would expect this to become more frequent in future.”

FlyerAlarm has nevertheless been using price to gain its toehold in this country, offering discounts to new customers and by volume of business.

Clearly this will not continue forever. “The price of print has fallen in recent years and cannot go lower. Instead service will increase through faster delivery speed and led by developments like Amazon Prime. We do not have next day delivery yet, but that might change. We will charge a premium, though people will generally opt for a lower price.”

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FlyerAlarm has built its business on ganging as many jobs as possible on a large format sheetfed press, buying Speedmaster XL162s for this purpose. This enables it to offer highly competitive prices, but limits the ability to turn jobs at this cost rate. IT has meant a recent reconsideration on how to tackle the UK market.

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