Recently an announcement was received here at
Dealer Communicator that caught our attention. At a time when we continue to
get bad news about the state of business in the printing industry here was
positive news on a successful company that is continuing to grow and expand its
base of operations.
Grimco Inc. (www.grimco.com) is a wholesale sign supply
company selling sign supplies and equipment throughout the United States. The
announcement that got Dealer Communicator interested in this company was their
acquisition of the US operations of Proveer Sign and Graphics (Toronto). In
this day and age of doing business over the Internet we wondered why this
company was expanding through more brick and mortar locations. So we talked to
John Burkemper, President of Grimco, Inc. to get the full story.
Grimco started as Grimm Stamp
and Badge located in Missouri where they evolved from being a manufacturer of
police/fire badges and in the 1950's began to produce silk-screened traffic
signs. By 1999, the company was doing business nationwide and began to move
away from producing signs to selling digital wide format printers, supplies,
substrates and finishing equipment while still offering traffic signs and
blanks along with providing construction services for large style signs. Grimco
is a wholesale dealer that sells to companies or organizations printing and
Burkemper explained that the key to the growth of the company has
been by offering distribution and support services at a regional and local
They operate much like a paper
merchant or other graphic arts supply dealers providing short delivery
turnarounds of supplies and high levels of service. While Grimco can take
orders on the website the actual sales and distribution comes from a branch
With regard to doing business
over the Internet Burkemper indicated that the company has recently invested
into their web store site to accommodate increased use of this capability. He
sees this as all good since it helps reduce sales cost and provides more
information on any changing needs of their customers.
Asked about the state of the
sign business in these tough economic times, John Burkemper indicated that he
is seeing about a 2% growth overall, but, he pointed out that this can be
misleading. As in the rest of the printing industry there is an oversaturation
of capacity and larger companies have the resources to invest into new
technologies and equipment while the smaller companies struggle.
OFFSET PRINTERS EXPANDING
SERVICES . . .
One interesting point made by Burkemper is that offset printers are also
looking to expand into the sign business as an adjunct to their commercial
printing which has provided a growth opportunity. Grimco has responded by
actions like the acquisition of Proveer and opening additional branches. They
also are expanding their product lines with related products and with newer
With regard to technological trends, the sign business is mostly
digital these days. This is the reason that offset printers can move into this
side of the business fairly readily while it is rare to see a sign printer add
an offset press. Burkemper is seeing new technologies in the finishing end of
the sign business that range from cutting tools to handling of fabrics to a
range of additional services.
He sees the role of Grimco to
educate their customers on how to use the equipment they offer along with
discussing potential business opportunities for the products that can be
produced on the equipment they buy from Grimco.
Customers look to Grimco for
ways to grow their business through additional capabilities and specialties
based on the type of customers to whom they sell. Customers are made aware of
new product offerings from the manufactures that Grimco represents.
Asked about the future plans of
Grimco, John Burkemper sees their growth through a distribution network that
will remain in close proximity to the customer base. He said, "The closer
we can get to our customer locations the better we can help keep costs lower
and improve services".
Grimco is proof that dealers
can continue to grow if they help their customers grow through the use of new
technology; by providing marketing and product ideas and by offering a high
level of service. While Burkemper did not say it directly it is evident that he
does not see Grimco as an order taking business like many of the Internet
dealers but one that is built on service, product support and just in time
distribution of materials/supplies. A good path for graphic arts dealers of all
types to follow. DC