Printing, Copying, Shipping, and Signs
Industry Outlook and Trends


U.S. franchises in the printing, copying, shipping, and signs industry are well positioned since the United States generates the highest revenue for print and packaging worldwide, according to Inkworld magazine. It also ranks as the most developed digital printing market.

The U.S. commercial printing industry consists of 26,000 businesses with total annual revenue valued at about $84 billion, according to First Research. The industry is highly fragmented, with the largest 50 companies holding only about 30 percent of the market, allowing plenty of room for small or midsize businesses, including franchises. As a result, most of the industry is serviced by businesses that have one production location and employ about 20 people or less. Franchises and other private businesses also provide the majority of U.S. shipping services. Private businesses, including franchises in the printing, copying, shipping, and signs industry, provide 92 percent of jobs related to mailing and shipping services. Only 8 percent of the 7.5 million jobs in the U.S. mailing industry are with the U.S. Postal Service.

Despite the growing trend toward paperless communication, some printing services can't be duplicated via mobile or online applications. The ongoing effectiveness of print materials is demonstrated by industry statistics:

  • Data from the U.S. Postal Service indicates that 98 percent of people check their mail daily and open 80 to 90 percent of the mail they receive versus research from MailChimp that reports average open rates of 20 percent for email campaigns.
  • About 66 percent of people have purchased something because of direct mail and about 70 percent have re-established relationships because of a direct mail offer, according to the Direct Mail Association (DMA).
  • About 27 million business cards are printed every day in the United States, contributing to an annual total of 10 billion valued at $800 million in revenue, according to Statistic Brain.
  • U.S. advertisers spend an average of $167 per person on direct mail to earn $2,095 in sales, yielding a return of 1,300 percent, according to a report by Keen Systems, Inc.

Growth Potential

The outlook for printing, copying, shipping, and signs franchises is closely tied to the strength of the U.S. economy, which affects advertising and consumer spending. With U.S. corporate profits predicted to grow under the 2018 federal tax plan, an increased demand for commercial printing projects should follow, according to Baker Tilly International. The advisory firm predicts that the following industries are positioned to lead print spending as the U.S. economy continues its expansion:

  • Banking/insurance
  • Entertainment
  • Foodservice
  • Home improvement
  • Packaged foods
  • Medical/pharma
  • Non-news publishing
  • Telecommunications

In its 2018 State of the Industry Report, Printing Industries of America echoed predictions that the new tax plan would boost corporate profits and expand budgets for printing and related industries. The report identified the following print market segments as those expected to increase at relatively higher rates than the industry in general:

  • Direct mail
  • Labels and wrappers
  • Packaging and specialty packaging
  • Point of purchase
  • Signage

Keeping up with technology is key for franchise owners in the printing, copying, shipping, and signs industry. Changing technology impacts the clients' printing needs as well as the way industry franchises meet those needs, according to research by WhatTheyThink. The changing way people interact as a result of factors including the Internet and mobile apps has affected the way services in this industry are delivered as well as the types of services that clients need.

As a result, industry standards have transitioned to include an increased dependence on web-to-print services, which offer convenience and accessibility by allowing clients to submit and review projects via online document design software. This technology has moved the industry to a more client-centered and personalized experience. In addition, this innovation also has increased opportunities for on-demand printing, an option that allows businesses to order projects as needed rather than being tied to large quantities that require storage and may become obsolete before they are used.

Common Business Models for Franchises in the Printing, Copying, Shipping, and Signs Industry

Franchises in the printing, copying, shipping, and signs industry include several types of business models. The major differentiation is between full service and specialty businesses. The majority of participants in an industry survey by Printing Impressions magazine said that up to one-third of their revenue came from services other than printing, such as mailing, fulfillment, database management and marketing services, which allowed them to offer the convenience of one-stop shopping for multi-faceted projects. By providing a full range of services, franchisees can get involved with a client's project earlier and remain involved for a longer period, facilitating multiple revenue streams and more product control.

However, there also is a demand for specialty services. Franchises that cater to a need in a specific industry, such as retail signs, for example, can modify processes and equipment to cater to the unique requirements of businesses in that industry. Equipped with the appropriate tools and training, owners of these franchises can establish a reputation based on dependability and expertise to attract projects in which they specialize. In doing so, they can establish themselves as the "go to" service for a specific industry.

Some of the most common business models for franchises in the printing, copying, shipping, and signs industry include:

  • Full-Service Printing and Business Centers: Franchises such as Postnet and Minuteman Press represent typical full-service printing and business center models in this industry. Offerings include everything from concept to delivery for projects related to all types of print jobs. These franchises often provide graphic design, promotional products, folding and binding, direct mail and shipping. As part of the full-service experience, franchise services also include consulting services related to website design, lead generation and brand identity.
  • Copying: While high volume paper copying services typically can be found in printing or full-service franchises, some franchises specialize in meeting unique copying needs. Franchises such as ScanElite provide critical scanning, copying and document management services that appeal to businesses that want to transfer large numbers of traditional documents to more manageable paperless formats.
  • Shipping: Franchises such as The UPS Store provide packing and shipping services via their branded shipping provider. Businesses specialize in preparing and moving standard as well as oversized packages such as pianos and cars around the world. These franchises also offer design and print services for small print jobs as well as retail packing, business supplies and mailbox services.
  • Signs: Large format franchises such as Signarama and SpeedPro Imaging concentrate on banners, event graphics, tradeshow displays, and vehicle wraps. Services that include design, printing and installation help franchisees maximize income potential from every job and ensure quality through to delivery. With specialized equipment, these businesses also can service small print shops that don't have the ability to meet their clients' large format needs.

You can find one of these franchises that may work for you by searching Franchise Opportunities' Printing, Copying, Shipping, and Signs Franchises category.

Financial Matters of Franchises in the Printing, Copying, Shipping, and Signs Industry

You can find a franchise in the printing, copying, shipping, and signs industry at every investment level. Businesses that require minimal equipment and set up, such as document scanning or shipping consultants, can be run from home offices. However, most franchises in this industry require a commercial space to house equipment and production services. As a result, investment levels can reach up to several hundred thousand dollars depending on your local real estate market. Start-up costs also can quickly increase with the lease or purchase of proprietary equipment, supplies and retail inventory.

Additional expenses in the printing, copying, shipping, and signs industry vary greatly since there are so many different types of franchises. For franchises that occupy their own physical locations, you will have to allow for lease/mortgage payments, utilities and general physical maintenance. An introductory franchise fee and lifetime payments related to revenue royalties are typical obligations for franchisees in any industry. You'll also have to plan for costs related to marketing/advertising as well as employee salaries, training and benefits.

Since the success of franchises in this industry is often tied to equipment and technical capabilities, these items can represent significant portions of both startup and ongoing expenses. While purchasing printers, computers and software can come with a high price tag, maintaining that equipment to ensure that it runs smoothly with the latest software also can be costly.

While the expenses related to starting a franchise in the printing, copying, shipping, and signs industry may seem overwhelming, the financial perks of franchising can help to minimize certain costs and provide financial benefits inaccessible to independent operators. These advantages may include:

  • Favorable financing opportunities based on having a proven business plan
  • Franchisor recommendations to lenders willing to work with franchiseesFranchisor assistance in leasing or purchasing equipment from approved vendors
  • Franchisor financing for capital costs related to franchise setup
  • Franchise group discounts for the purchase of equipment, inventory and professional services


As the owner of a franchise in the printing, copying, shipping, and signs industry, you'll be positioned for success with a proven business plan from the start of your new venture. With access to your franchisor's experience in planning, location, setup and marketing, you won't waste time and money with decisions based on trial and error. You'll also benefit from the name recognition of a national franchise that ensures potential clients they can count on working with a business that has an established reputation. Even if your company isn't recognized in your local area, your association with a franchise implies reputability to clients that need the job done right and on time.

Franchises in the printing, copying, shipping, and signs industry also have the advantage of being able to easily expand their offerings to buffer against business slowdowns. Many franchises in this industry rely on pre- and post-production services to increase revenue, with the added benefit of gaining full project quality control. Since printing typically is a local business, you'll also benefit from a franchise agreement that ensures your exclusive coverage of specified markets, avoiding the need to compete with fellow franchisees to retain satisfied clients.

A report on the printing services industry by IBISWorld identified marketing expertise as an indicator for industry success. With access to a corporate franchise team, you're ensured expert input and guidance in marketing and many other areas. Typically, a franchise team is staffed with industry professionals who can provide guidance and direction in:

  • Selecting and establishing the best physical space for your franchise
  • Identifying and securing business permits, licenses and insurance
  • Properly implementing franchise programs and practicesTraining for you and your employees in franchise programs and practices
  • Providing training in technology, equipment and industry standards
  • Identifying and attracting the right potential clients
  • Handling franchise-specific challenges
  • Reaching franchisees in your franchise network for mutual support and camaraderie

Important Considerations

Franchises in the printing, copying, shipping, and signs industry must remain adaptable as technological advances affect clients' needs. To succeed, these franchises must implement ongoing modifications in equipment and systems to meet these needs. As a franchisee in this industry, you should be prepared to constantly reassess your ability to accommodate current industry standards and changing trends. Demonstrating that you can meet and exceed customer expectations will help you establish long-term and lucrative relationships.

One of the key components of customer satisfaction is your employment of a talented and customer-oriented staff. Printing-related businesses report that the highest demand is for employees with specialized skills for positions that require some degree of experience or expertise. Digital and graphic designers have different skills from traditional printers. As a result, they can command salaries up to 50 percent higher than traditional printing personnel, according to a report by First Research. In a survey of printing industry business owners, a WhatTheyThink marketing study reported that 38 percent of over 300 industry executives planned to hire staff in 2018, with the majority citing open positions in graphic designers, marketing/communication specialists and prepress operators.

While your business will benefit from being associated with a franchise in attracting initial clients, your performance ultimately will determine if first-time clients return to provide long-term revenue. Even if a fellow franchisee falters in their services, it's up to you to protect the integrity of your franchise to ensure its individual success. Encouraging clients to share their positive experiences on social media can go a long way in protecting your individual franchise reputation and acquiring future business.

Owning a franchise in the printing, copying, shipping, and signs industry also can require that you address challenges such as:

  • Maintaining a safe workplace in areas where printing and other production equipment can cause employee injuries
  • Establishing systems to accommodate quick turnaround without sacrificing quality
  • Ensuring that you and your employees remain current with the newest equipment and industry standards
  • Identifying experts who can work on a project basis when a client's needs exceed your staff's skills or abilities

Characteristics for Success: Who Should Consider a Printing, Copying, Shipping, and Signs Franchise?

If you enjoy the challenges of using technology to deliver business services, you can find a franchise in the printing, copying, shipping, and signs industry that aligns with your personal interests and investment goals. While experience isn't required, you'll be positioned to address the challenges of this industry if you can combine technical interest or ability with the type of customer service mindset required to manage deadlines and changing project specs. In addition, franchisees that have some of these characteristics may be best equipped to succeed in this industry:

  • You have a technological mentality. While you may be able to plan the solution to a client's printing or communication project, it's important that you understand the abilities and limits of your equipment and how to bring your client's ideas to reality.
  • You have an education or first-hand knowledge of the skills required to provide services to your clients. Whether you gain expertise from experience or franchise education, you'll have to take responsibility for ensuring that you or an assigned employee have the skills necessary to get the job done.
  • You have experience or an education in marketing, sales or business. Even with the backing of a franchise team, it will be up to you to execute the franchise business plan to generate profits, while also identifying and correcting problems that interfere with business growth and success.
  • You are detail-oriented. Providing services in this industry requires staying on top of the little things to ensure a successful outcome. A misspelled print job, an incorrect shipping address or a missed deadline all can translate into wasted time and money, along with lost credibility and client trust.
  • You work well with deadlines. Most projects in the printing, copying, shipping, and signs industry are deadline-specific. Your reputation will depend on your ability to meet deadlines consistently, even when delays are caused by clients.
  • You can identify and retain employees who have the skills and disposition to help you succeed. Many jobs in this industry require specific experience and knowledge, along with a customer service mindset. The market for skilled workers can be competitive, so it's key to find the right people and create a workplace that encourages long-term employment.
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