04 August 2017 Business

Grafenia: Finding a place from Manchester

The UK's original print consolidation business is exploring large format and fast response to find growth.

Grafenia can claim to be the original online print business, being owner of Printing.com. That used shops to collect and direct orders to the production hub in Manchester.

The model still exists, but as chief executive Peter Gunning points out, “print is too far down the pecking order in the value chain”. He wants to be engaged with the buyers well before this, supplying website and print design through the Nettl brand or working with resellers via Marqetspace. Or perhaps bringing end customers in to a Nettl business store, refreshing them with coffee and inspiring them with a selection of printed materials including large fabric displays.

The first Nettl business store in Birmingham is proving a hit he says. And the nascent network of sign and display printers that the company wants to build via retirement sales, will provide further walk-in shops.

“Retail is all about the experience,” says Gunning. “We can show samples, provide creative services and advice.” The print orders will continue to be fired up to Manchester via the internet. “Not everyone wants to buy online,” he adds. “We are using online systems to hit all the touch points the chain has from order placed, proofing to delivery. Every order has some online interaction.”

The focus has shifted from dealing with individuals and micro businesses. The maturity of this sector means that cost of acquisition via Adwords has swung wildly. What used to be £4 earned for every £1 click fee, has reached the point that it is impossible to earn a profit on the first order, says Gunning.

And the micro businesses that use online print are infrequent purchasers of print, driven by cost not loyalty. Consequently Grafenia's focus has shifted from printing.com to Marqetspace and Nettl.

The former is trade only, working with resellers who themselves have a number of clients. “The cost of acquisition for a customer is higher, but so is the volume of orders,” says Gunning. However, resellers are fickle, comparing prices across multiple sites in search of the cheapest or fastest.

Here Grafenia plans to use its Nettl network. Many partners are already printers signing up to add value through website development. It wants to convert Marqetspace clients to Nettl outlets. It wants to capture clients well ahead of any decision on what to print or how much to print.

And while overall print volumes might be slipping, Gunning believes that online print is increasing. He was invited to tell the Grafenia story at the Online Print Symposium in Munich earlier this year.

“It was clear there that 20% of print for the German speaking market is now purchased through online sites and is predicted to double over the next four to five years. The UK market is currently at 15% at most and will grow to 25-30% over the next five years with the largest growth coming from closed shop sites where print is integrated into the supply chain for a business,” he says.

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Business centre

Business centre

Grafenia is combining online print ordering with foot on the ground business centres where customers can meet, discuss and develop ideas for campaigns that involve small format and large format print. At the same time some smaller Nettl stores are testing the idea of same day service.

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