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Re: [PPLetterpress] Letterpress economics

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  • Blue Barnhouse
    Revenue from custom work is about half of what we did last year. I think we would have gone out of business by now if I hadn t already been on the road to
    Message 1 of 11 , Dec 2, 2008
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      Revenue from custom work is about half of what we did last year. I
      think we would have gone out of business by now if I hadn't already
      been on the road to finding more ways to make money. Two years ago
      when the last independent stationery store in Asheville went out of
      business we bought up a bunch of their card racks and turned half of
      our studio into retail space .... initially we filled the racks with
      our own cards. At first it brought in enough extra change that I could
      the raid the register every few days and get a case of PBR and a candy
      bar. Around the same time I bought a webstore for the cards (not cheap
      but paid itself off last May) got a few credit cards and went trade
      show crazy (8 shows in the last year and a half.) During this time,
      also by the grace of my american express, I filled my store with
      phenomenal work from other letterpress companies I found and
      befriended at the shows.

      This year BBH grossed about four times as much as we did two years
      ago, and its was pretty much the greeting cards that did it. I heard
      someone theorize that though folks can't afford gifts they can still
      afford a greeting card, infact they are more prone to buy a card....
      and we've been playing on that idea locally with ads like this:

      http://bluebarnhouse.org/2008HOLIDAY.jpg

      Being at the shows during the downturn was pretty informative-- the
      crowds of retailers got thinner, you saw alot of booth owners (mostly
      folks with bad business ideas/poor products) get more and more
      uncomfortable/upset as the week dragged on without a sale. A bad show
      can really do a number on your business, they are super expensive, and
      suck up alot of time in preparation and aftermath, so I theorize that
      while a bad show would prevent a business from coming back, and a bad
      economy would prevent businesses who would/should have been ready to
      attend a show from going.

      Another move I made that turned out to be a stroke of luck was to turn
      to the international market. We did a show in Toronto-- it went really
      well for us despite the fact that there were less than 5000 in
      attendance (it is not a very big show to begin with) --- The canadian
      economy seems to be doing well and they are feasting on american
      products while the dollar is so low, they seem to shop bigger than
      most of our customers, and go as far south as Atlanta to buy.

      The New York Gift Show, which is the mother of all shows that happens
      2 times a year, used to have a 2 year waiting list. We got in this
      summer along with a number of other letterpress folks after only being
      denied entry once-- the floodgates essentially opened-- and its
      because a lot of businesses that have had seniority are not
      returning. Normally you would be required to do be in a category
      called New York's Newest, which is offsite and 3 miles away from the
      Javits Center (where the main show happens) for at least 2 shows.
      However the New York Gift Show is shrinking, and this January they are
      combining NYs Newest with another category called "Studio" (which is
      also offsite, but closer to the Jav) to create the illusion of a
      packed show. Thankfully, we are cutting ahead to the front of the line
      in January, we were just offered a prime location on the main floor of
      the Javits Center for January's show. Though it may be depressing news
      for most businesses, its great news for any business with products
      that worth a spit, because there's not much competition out there
      right now, which makes for easy pickins on retailers trying to fill
      their store with something worthy.

      Putting out several different arms from one body to bring in some kind
      of revenue was not a calculated business move as much as it was acts
      of desperation and hope. But to answer your question, I have a lot of
      debt to pay off, I'm probably going to break even on the books this
      year, but I can pay cash for shows now, our retail space is doing
      pretty well these days... now when I raid the register-- its to go out
      to eat and buy contraband!

      If this is what things are like when the economy is bad, I can't wait
      for a good economy.

      Yrs,

      Brandon


      visit our webstore: www.bluebarnhousestore.org

      and our blog: bluebarnhouse.blogspot.com

      and our website: www.bluebarnhouse.org

      Blue Barnhouse
      428-B Haywood Rd.
      Asheville, NC 28806
      P: 828.225.3991
      F: 888-726-9257

      info@...
      www.bluebarnhouse.org








      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Scott Rubel
      Gerald: I ll tell it. It doesn t hurt me to say this. And if it does, it can t hurt. The signals do seem mixed, as you point out, but I think that s because of
      Message 2 of 11 , Dec 2, 2008
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        Gerald:

        I'll tell it. It doesn't hurt me to say this. And if it does, it can't hurt.

        The signals do seem mixed, as you point out, but I think that's because
        of the huge shift that is going on. As a civilization we are in a
        painful process of deciding what businesses and paradigms will live and
        which must go.

        I do business with a local Los Angeles engraver. They say the business
        is still coming in, but they are having more trouble getting paid and
        they keep asking if I want to buy them.

        The guy who usually helps me when I need machine repair is hard to get
        in touch with. He once was someone who flitted about the West installing
        this, repairing that. Now he is occupied with multi-day jobs
        disassembling equipment and moth-balling it or getting it ready to ship
        out of the country.

        I have laid off six of my good people and am operating with as few as
        possible.

        My landlord is not in printing, but is affected by a printing business
        (mine). He runs a large repair shop for Mercedes and other vehicles. His
        large contract customers (some of the biggest business names in
        Pasadena) bring him fleet work still, but are way behind paying their
        invoices. Oh, and I'm a bit behind on rent, too. He's a worried man, and
        so am I.

        If I were happily puttering about with a two man business out of a home,
        I probably wouldn't be noticing anything. There are still people who pay
        for great letterpress work, but the general flow of commerce, the
        little, regular sales that pay the rent and workman's comp and lights
        and four-line phone with toll-free numbers and Pasadena Parking tickets
        and liability insurance and internet hosting &c. &c., that's all on hold.

        There is the faint impression that all this will shake out soon enough
        for me and everyone to get back on track. That's why I'm not wrapping it
        up yet, but really, working on a little C&P in my garage again and
        having time to do my own projects, often sounds more tempting than all
        the riches promised by a great economy.

        Let me warn everyone who wants to grow; business requires a lot of
        sacrifice, but if you can't find a way to do it without losing sleep,
        without time to exercise and eat right, you're making a big mistake. As
        business people we tend to be gamblers, and we gamble our health as well
        as our money. Don't do it. If you find yourself working to 3 in the
        morning (especially after the age of 35), forgetting to eat and take
        walks, you're destroying yourself.

        --Scott
        _InviteSite_ <http://www.invitesite.com/holidays.php>

        Gerald Lange wrote:
        > Hi Jacob
        >
        > Well, it did not occur to me but as one correspondent put it, no one
        > is going to tell you they are in trouble, at least, not in a public
        > forum. Pointless post. Good to hear you are doing okay.
        >
        > Gerald
        >
        > --- In PPLetterpress@yahoogroups.com, "Jacob Groth" <jacob@...> wrote:
        >
        >> Hi Gerald,
        >>
        >> Business is booming here. Sorry if we don't fit into the media
        >>
        > driven mold, but haven't sensed any recession on this end ..
        >
        >> Jacob Groth
        >> El Dorado Hills, CA
        >> www.swallowtailfarms.com
        >> www.le-paper.com
        >>
        >>
        >> ----- Original Message -----
        >> From: Gerald Lange
        >> To: PPLetterpress@yahoogroups.com
        >>
        >>
        >> Tonight the US Government acknowledged we have been in a deep
        >> recession since last December. Yet, many of the major internet
        >> sellers, Sears, WalMart, eBay, etc, crashed tonight under heavy
        >>
        > demand.
        >
        >> "I was asked what I thought about the recession. I thought about it
        >> and decided not to take part." Sam Walton - Founder of Wal-Mart
        >>
        >> Thing here is this. No one is talking about this and it may or may not
        >> be important but I would like to open it up to discussion.
        >>
        >> I have not experienced a significant slow down, I have sensed it
        >> everywhere, but things still seem viable in this sector. How are other
        >> folks doing?
        >>
        >> Gerald
        >> http://BielerPress.blogspot.com
        >>
        >>
        >> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >>


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Barbara Hauser
        Hi Gerald and all, I m just a hobby printer so I don t have a business to report on. However, I m always in the market for type and other studio equipment, and
        Message 3 of 11 , Dec 2, 2008
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          Hi Gerald and all,

          I'm just a hobby printer so I don't have a business to report on.
          However, I'm always in the market for type and other studio equipment,
          and I'm getting the impression that prices are considerably lower than
          they have been. I'm getting like-new fonts of ATF type for $30,
          whereas they use to go for at least $50. But maybe everyone's
          switching to photopolymer.

          Barbara

          --- In PPLetterpress@yahoogroups.com, "Gerald Lange" <Bieler@...> wrote:


          > . . . I have not experienced a significant slow down, I have sensed it
          > everywhere, but things still seem viable in this sector. How are other
          > folks doing?
          >
          > Gerald
          > http://BielerPress.blogspot.com
          >
        • Lamsland
          I don t do any business with regards to letterpress, I do however work for two commercial shops and can comment on the feeling in there at those. One is
          Message 4 of 11 , Dec 2, 2008
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            I don't do any business with regards to letterpress, I do however
            work for two commercial shops and can comment on the feeling in there
            at those. One is looking to be bought up, the other has laid off at
            least two people every couple of months since summer. It's not even
            half as busy at that shop as it was two years ago and no one, not
            even sales reps, have good things to say about the coming future.
            Clients like hospitals and other big corporations are cutting way
            back. Orders now are commonly in the hundreds to a thousand, but
            they're ordering more often. As always getting paid is the biggest
            crutch we face.

            I wanna know when it was printers stopped taking a third up front, a
            third on deliver and a third in 30 days and started trying to be banks??


            Matthew "LAMMY" Lamoureux
            Full Metal Press - Operis servo a specialis nundinae

            Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.
            Thomas Jefferson

            On Dec 2, 2008, at 2:46 PM, Barbara Hauser wrote:

            > Hi Gerald and all,
            >
            > I'm just a hobby printer so I don't have a business to report on.
            > However, I'm always in the market for type and other studio equipment,
            > and I'm getting the impression that prices are considerably lower than
            > they have been. I'm getting like-new fonts of ATF type for $30,
            > whereas they use to go for at least $50. But maybe everyone's
            > switching to photopolymer.
            >
            > Barbara
            >
            > --- In PPLetterpress@yahoogroups.com, "Gerald Lange" <Bieler@...>
            > wrote:
            >
            > > . . . I have not experienced a significant slow down, I have
            > sensed it
            > > everywhere, but things still seem viable in this sector. How are
            > other
            > > folks doing?
            > >
            > > Gerald
            > > http://BielerPress.blogspot.com
            > >
            >
            >
            >



            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Blue Barnhouse
            For custom work we make it a strict policy to take half up front, the other half before delivery. Chasing down delinquent payments on one time or even two time
            Message 5 of 11 , Dec 2, 2008
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              For custom work we make it a strict policy to take half up front, the
              other half before delivery. Chasing down delinquent payments on one
              time or even two time clients is one administrative duty I refuse to
              perform and its difficult to pay employees for work they've done
              without immediate payment for services rendered.

              With wholesale greetings its different, we can't avoid customers who
              are used to Net 30, some won't buy without that option, and if our
              sales reps vouch for their clients who want N30, we have no choice but
              to comply. To the defense of the N30, it is kind of nice to have a
              check fall out of the sky when you're not really thinking about it.

              We try and make our wholesale customers pay up front for their first
              order at least. But w/ Museums and chain stores you have to bend the
              rules. For the most part we haven't had any delinquents and a gentle
              nudge is all it takes for those who are late-- I have yet to have to
              fly out to a customer's shop and burn it down in retribution for
              failure to pay, but believe me if it gets to that point, I am willing.

              Brandon


              On Dec 2, 2008, at 3:15 PM, Lamsland wrote:

              > I wanna know when it was printers stopped taking a third up front, a
              > third on deliver and a third in 30 days and started trying to be
              > banks??



              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Lamsland
              ... LOL, yeah go figure, one place I work is run by a bunch of italians, like their grandfather that started the place was right off the boat. I ve heard they
              Message 6 of 11 , Dec 2, 2008
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                > I have yet to have to
                > fly out to a customer's shop and burn it down in retribution for
                > failure to pay, but believe me if it gets to that point, I am willing.
                >
                > Brandon
                >

                LOL, yeah go figure, one place I work is run by a bunch of italians,
                like their grandfather that started the place was right off the boat.
                I've heard they have "close family" in NYC. You'd think with guys
                like this running the joint there's never be an issue with getting paid.


                Matthew "LAMMY" Lamoureux
                Full Metal Press - Operis servo a specialis nundinae

                Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.
                Thomas Jefferson
              • Gerald Lange
                Hi Barbara My take on it is that folks aren t switching to photopolymer, they are starting with photopolymer. Not exactly the best approach typographically, in
                Message 7 of 11 , Dec 3, 2008
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                  Hi Barbara

                  My take on it is that folks aren't switching to photopolymer, they are
                  starting with photopolymer. Not exactly the best approach
                  typographically, in terms of something or other, whatever, doesn't
                  really matter, that is just the way it is.

                  Yeah, lots of stuff is available at pretty good prices now. Last
                  couple of weeks I have been getting calls from suppliers offering up
                  inventory at half price, their cost. This isn't normal but it is good
                  tax planning. Write it off this year as the write off won't do you
                  much good next year, especially if next year is as uncertain as it
                  seems. So, naturally, I''m buying.

                  Gerald



                  -- In PPLetterpress@yahoogroups.com, "Barbara Hauser" <BarbHauser@...>
                  wrote:
                  >
                  > Hi Gerald and all,
                  >
                  > I'm just a hobby printer so I don't have a business to report on.
                  > However, I'm always in the market for type and other studio equipment,
                  > and I'm getting the impression that prices are considerably lower than
                  > they have been. I'm getting like-new fonts of ATF type for $30,
                  > whereas they use to go for at least $50. But maybe everyone's
                  > switching to photopolymer.
                  >
                  > Barbara
                  >
                  > --- In PPLetterpress@yahoogroups.com, "Gerald Lange" <Bieler@> wrote:
                  >
                  >
                  > > . . . I have not experienced a significant slow down, I have sensed it
                  > > everywhere, but things still seem viable in this sector. How are other
                  > > folks doing?
                  > >
                  > > Gerald
                  > > http://BielerPress.blogspot.com
                  > >
                  >
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