The Jumbo Roll Market Is Growing—Are You?
A new administration brings change. And, for some, change leads to unease. That’s not the case for Steve Patton, president of HCF Inc., Hillsboro, Ohio. He knows that evolution is inevitable and believes adapting has played a central role in keeping the wheels of business in motion for the print world.
“The printing of business forms will continue to change and evolve no matter who is in Washington—it’s just what happens in any mature business,” he observed. “If you take a look at those of us that are left, we tend to be very agile and very open to making adjustments and changes in our business, whereas the people that have stuck with one track, so to speak, they tend to get left behind because it’s continually changing—how the consumer or customer wants to do business, whether it’s rolls or sheets ... you can kind of pick the product.”
He’s right. There is always going to be a need for dedicated people who can handle requests proficiently. But questions remain—even about jumbo rolls, a product that, at first glance, doesn’t appear to have undergone any striking transformation.
The good news is we have answers to inform your selling strategies for 2021. Read on to learn about the intricacies of jumbo rolls, along with the unique challenges they bring and how to use them to your advantage.
Is now the right time to be entering the jumbo roll business due to the pandemic?
Yes! Jumbo rolls are a natural evolution of high-volume, preprinted documents, and opportunities continue to grow. Financial, retail, utilities, insurance, telecommunications, service bureaus and manufacturing are just a sampling of key verticals that distributors can target. Really, though, any business that uses statements, invoices, letters, self-mailers or shipping documents is appropriate.
For Patton, jumbo rolls have been pandemic-proof because HCF Inc. services end-users that typically request utilities and monthly bill-type applications.
“We have not experienced the same slowdown with jumbo rolls as we have with other types of forms,” he said. “Our jumbo roll business has remained very consistent through the whole COVID-19 issue.”
Bob Saunders, vice president of sales for Wise, Alpharetta, Ga., had a similar experience, and encouraged distributors to take the extra step of cross-selling to end-users.
“It can be obvious products, such as envelopes and labels used in statement processing applications, to promo products, such as magnets, calendars, note pads and pens used in direct mail applications,” he said.
Saunders shared that he is interested to see how the ongoing acceleration of inkjet technologies will affect future orders when the pandemic calms down.
“Over time, this may have an impact on the jumbo roll business as more applications move to blank rolls,” he said.
Perhaps consider inkjet part of the evolution. Instead of only blank or preprinted product options, inkjet adds another dynamic of what is preprinted for customers. While it could result in less preprint per roll if more customers use inkjet to print a company logo in color, for example, it’s not yet expected to replace the product itself.
As Kate Torpey, director of sales and business development for Roanoke, Virginia-based InfoSeal, now a division of Ennis Inc., pointed out to Print+Promo Marketing in the 2020 article, “Roll Up Your Sleeves: Get down to business and find out how inkjet has impacted jumbo rolls and more,” jumbo roll business is good business.
“It’s not going away, and with a lot of printers installing roll-fed inkjet, a prefinished roll can be a tremendous value to them,” she said. “A prefinished roll can include additional perfs, a pressure seal cohesive [and] windows. Value-added jumbo rolls are what a lot of print shops are looking for now, and the business is actually evolving with more and more inkjet roll-fed printers, so don’t overlook the jumbo rolls.”
If freight increases, what does that mean for paper pricing?
Unfortunately, this is tricky to predict. Here’s what we know. All manufacturers have been affected by raw material price increases. In Print+Promo Marketing’s 2019 article, “Follow the Paper Trail: Uncovering opportunities in the tumultuous paper industry,” Steve Reifel, business unit director at Midlothian, Texas-based Ennis Inc., didn’t mince words.
“Although some increases can be offset or delayed with cost-savings programs, alternatives, efficiencies and the such, raw material increases are a true hard cost that must be passed through the entire supply chain,” he said. “Failure to do so weakens the supply chain whether it be the paper supply, the manufacturer or distributor.”
It’s no secret that market conditions have been unkind to paper products. Notably, in 2019, Georgia-Pacific, a mill that had built a reputation as one of the world’s leading makers of tissue, pulp, packaging, building products and related chemicals, announced that it was exiting the communication papers business, taking 650,000 tons (or 8%) of uncoated paper and roughly 650 jobs at its Port Hudson, Louisiana facility off the table.
Stories like Georgia-Pacific’s, where producers shut down capacity with relatively little forewarning, coupled with the rising cost of materials to make pulp, have resulted in the discontinuation of certain paper grades, a push for allocation and across-the-board increases worldwide for the paper industry. According to data from Fineline Printing Group, paper prices rose by 3% to 5% in 2019.
“It is imperative to have a paper supplier who will commit to providing quality paper on a regular schedule along with competitive pricing,” stressed Larry Lovell, president of Phoenix Data Inc., Montgomery, Pa.
Despite the tight market, Saunders isn’t too concerned. “Fortunately, Wise has a very strong supply chain partnership with our paper partners,” he said. “As a result, we have seen little to no impact from the paper market dynamics.”
How does the jumbo roll selling process differ from other areas of print?
Jumbo rolls are a program sale versus a transactional sale. This means longer selling cycles that can take anywhere from weeks up to a couple of years to complete. But it’s business that repeats every 30, 60 or 90 days, making all of those man-hours worthwhile. To provide perspective, Patton said he’s worked with a particular utility company for at least 12 years. Successful distributors follow a simple formula: Uncover the customer’s problems and solve them.
“Keys to closing these programs typically start with asking the right questions around program logistics, items such as warehouse requirements, emergency stock and invoicing,” Saunders said. “Ask … open-ended questions of the customer [like], tell me about your current program and how it works. What works well? Are there any challenges you’re currently having that you would like to see improved? If you have one thing you could change to make the program run smoother, what would it be?
“Include your trusted manufacturing partner in these meetings to show your scale,” he added. “Some of these customers are large and like to see their supplier partners have some size to them as well.”
The truth is suppliers also want to be included in the process, whether that’s during exploratory discussions or the later stages of the sales cycle. Many of them can easily accommodate plant tours, joint calls and on-site visits to troubleshoot issues. Extra support may involve using vertical market analysis to identify prospects and customers in the distributor’s existing base.
Even one misstep can fracture the client relationship. When that happens, those end-users that were historically resistant to change won’t hesitate to make a move—to the competition. Other companies’ losses have been gains for Wise.
At the end of 2019, one of Wise’s distributor partners brought them a jumbo roll opportunity. The initial job involved a six-color financial statement with critical registration, and the customer was having consistency challenges with its current supplier. Saunders and his team immediately got to work, and the reward was great.
“The process involved a detailed quote, press proof and three test runs,” Saunders recalled. “This is a common process to follow when customers move jumbo roll business—they want to test the new product for consistency of quality and run-ability. The time to work through all this was just over a year. Being patient during the initial sales cycle created additional program work of over $100,000 for our distributor partner and Wise.”
Are all jumbo roll suppliers created equal?
Definitely not. Customers expect good quality and great service at a fair price. However, jumbo roll work isn’t as simple as mounting a roll, pressing the “on” button and hoping for the best. If mistakes aren’t caught, that low price comes with a high cost for customers. Remember those value-added rolls we mentioned earlier? Let’s say they have extra perforations for integrated cards or coupons. The recipient must be able to extract the card easily, but the card should not pre-dispense from the roll during high-speed digital imaging. To avoid headaches, distributors should carefully vet their supplier partners. Have they made the investments? Do they have the skill set?
Phoenix Data Inc. has cameras mounted on its presses. Zoom features allow operators to verify ink coverage and consistency, which Lovell cited as the No. 1 priority for end-users. It’s not unusual for a customer to immediately reject a roll that has extraneous ink—and one roll equals 80,000 documents or more.
Lovell mentioned other upgrades and capabilities. “We have purchased additional 21-inch units to allow both of our UV presses to run 2/2 21-inch work,” said Lovell, who added that different parts of the presses are maintained daily, weekly and monthly. “This size allows for reduced costs in paper and postage by creating a 10.5-inch form. ... We also have the capability to produce 14-inch, 17-inch, 22-inch and 24-inch jumbo rolls. Our presses are capable to run 40-inch and 50-inch rolls with 3-inch, 5-inch and 6-inch cores.”
HCF Inc. has changed the type of inks it uses to reduce tracking and provide better color throughout the run. But the company didn’t stop there. Addressing web breaks was also important to Patton, so he upgraded the company’s presses to include new G Fordyce rewinders.
“A buyer’s biggest concern seems to be consistency through the roll and being able to put the roll on and run without stopping,” Patton said. “Distributors, I believe, want to know that the manufacturer will stand behind what is produced and that there will be little to no problems with the order.”