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Sun, Nov

The Day of Independents

Why Simpson Group is targeting smaller retailers and businesses with its new retailers shop4pop online ordering service.

It’s too early to say whether north-east based Simpson Group will win the battle to get enough print orders out of small retailers via its new shop4pop ecommerce venture to make it pay, but chairman Mark Simpson is convinced that now is the time to lead the charge.

“We are convinced that small retailers, gyms, theatres etc. would spend money on POP if they knew it was a viable option. But they don’t. There are loads on online sites offering basic posters, business cards, leaflets etc., but not what we are offering with shop4pop – an easily navigable site that offers a number of customisable template POP items, that allows orders from as low as one, at a reasonable price and delivered within seven days. It makes buying low volume POP a real possibility for people who might have thought it was not a possibility.”

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The website itself has certainly been well thought out, with visitors to the page able to browse options via dropdown menus of ‘products’ (banners etc), by ‘shop sector’ (grocers, florist etc), by ‘occasion’ (sales clearance, Father’s Day etc.), through ‘bundle deals’ (beauty salon POP packages under £250) – and there’s a ‘design and artwork’ button that talks through design service options/prices and an artwork guide, as well as offering things like ‘hints and tips from experts on where to place your advertising for best effect’. The site even shows customers how to make up the dump bin etc. And of course all orders are paid for up front online too.

“This is all an unexplored market area for us as we deal mainly with the biggest retailers in the UK and abroad and handle very large contracts. But we can see that getting small retailers and the like to buy into POP is an unexploited market, not just for us, but for the wide-format sector in general. These operations don’t tend to have their own branded POP but they are realising that branding is important to their success,” says Simpson.

He admits it has meant the group has had to look at how the Web-to-print business model would work, and put together a team of people to develop, maintain and market the service. “Normally we rely on repeat business from big customers so we’ve had to work out how this would hang together,” says Simpson.

Each product on shop4pop is designed to utilise full sheets and optimise the roll widths of the digital printers at the group’s production facility in Washington, Tyne and Wear, to minimise waste and reduce set-up time. The system has been designed – using internal and external resource – to ensure that the templates work to the group’s printing parameters and are “idiot proof” so that all customers need do is drop in their text and/or images. The idea is that the process is automated and that “nobody need touch a file”.

“What we’ve done is put together an offering that is simple and attractive to the market, but which we also expect to be a profitable part of our business. The POP item pricing looks reasonable, but actually if we get the number of small personalised orders up to a point where we can make volume of scale work on the printers, the unit margin will be better than that we make with our big customers.”

The shop4pop website only went live in mid April, so the group has everything crossed that orders will come in at a high enough level, and is doing everything in its power to make sure it draws attention to the new venture. It has employed someone to blog about the offering and to use all the relevant social media channels to get the message out to the widest possible audience, there have been leaflet drops to local stores and ads in local business pages, plus attendance as small business networking events and even small business exhibitions. “You just have to try everything and see what works,” according to Simpson.

He is also convinced that part of the messaging to these smaller retailers/businesses should be that print is more sustainable than many of them believe. To that end paper products purchased from shop4pop are printed on materials that are FSC or PEFC certified. All other product materials are 100% recyclable.

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