Would-Be Printing Giants FedEx and UPS Slug It Out—But for What?
How concerned should we be about FedEx’s new Design &
By Patrick Henry
Published: September 24, 2009
How concerned should we be about FedEx’s new Design & Print Center “solution”? Announced this week, it’s basically a collection of do-it-yourself templates for everyday printed products that businesses use: cards, letterhead and envelopes, folders, brochures, note pads, postcards, note cards, address labels, flyers, and promotional magnets. The templates can be accessed at kiosks in FedEx Office Print & Ship Centers—there are 1,900 of them—or online. Technically speaking, the concept is nothing new, and FedEx already has a competitor poised to do the pretty much same thing on an even grander scale. That would be UPS, which is now billing itself as “the nation’s largest online printing network” for small businesses by virtue of the online printing services it now offers through its 4,400 UPS Stores. What could give the FedEx initiative a competitive boost is its attractive shipping policy. There’s no shipping charge for jobs with seven-day turnarounds—a break that could prove irresistible to small companies buying printed matter that isn’t time-sensitive. (UPS uses a distribute-and-print model whereby customers pick up their finished jobs at the UPS location of their choice. FedEx also offers a pickup option for orders placed in-store.) Quick printers and other vendors of print-for-pay services have been buffeted for years by competition from office-superstore copy centers and by various online schemes that appeared to be doing end-runs around traditional providers. (Remember the furor over the “Send to FedEx Kinko’s” button once embedded in Adobe Acrobat Reader? Or the ire that HP stirred with its “MarketSplash” program, which it launched and then abruptly pulled back from earlier this year?) The question now is how much the print-for-pay segment actually has left to surrender to FedEx and UPS as they joust over low-margin, commoditized work that’s already priced too low to keep an ordinary print shop going. In other words, if either or both of the giants are successful, will the industry even notice the pain in the midst of everything else that’s hurting it right now? And, what’s the potential exposure for dedicated online print providers like VistaPrint and PrintingForLess.com? The Motley Fool, by the way, thinks that FedEx and UPS are barking up a barren tree with these ventures. But, we’d like to know what you think about these latest incursions into the print space by companies that certainly have size on their side—but perhaps not much else.