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SEPTEMBER 2012





The GRIMCO Story

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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 manufacturing signs.

Burkemper explained that the key to the growth of the company has been by offering distribution and support services at a regional and local level.

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 office.

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 technologies.

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

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