Allegra's Chairman Carl Gerhardt discusses how critical drupa is to the industry and how the Allegra Network benefits.
Cary Sherburne: Hi, I’m Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com and I'm here with Carl Gerhardt, who is chairman of Allegra Network. Welcome.
Carl Gerhardt: Thank you Cary. Good to be here.
Cary Sherburne: And maybe you could first of all, just tell us a little bit about Allegra, the size and how you’ve been doing the last couple of years.
Carl Gerhardt: Okay. Yeah, well we have approximately 500 franchise locations, a couple hundred of which our signs now, our sign brand that we acquired in 2005 and then our print brands Insty-Prints, Allegra Marketing Print Mail, we changed the brand a bit now, and America Speedy Printing Centers and we have about 300 of those, so they break up about that way, all across North America, Canada and the United States.
Cary Sherburne: Okay and so looking forward to Drupa 2012. Normally I'm sure you send people from headquarters. Do your franchisees also go?
Carl Gerhardt: Not many of our franchisees go. They sort of expect us to do that because of the time and the cost of being away from their business. We took a few of our franchisees, some of our larger franchisees at the—franchise members we call them at the last Drupa and we’ll probably do that again next year, but most of the executives go.
Cary Sherburne: Okay and what are you looking for when you go to 2012?
Carl Gerhardt: Well just the experience of what’s happening in the industry. I mean we’ve been going through such dramatic almost radical change you would say and that continues to accelerate itself that you have to stay on top of the industry. You have to keep your eye on the ball and going to Drupa, going to Graph Expo and those events is critical to doing that. There is so much change happening with the suppliers and the vendors to the industry that it helps give one a more clear picture of where you fit in that whole change of things going forward, so that’s really why we do. Plus I'm German, so going to—I have relatives in Germany or I should say my heritage is German, so I visit my relatives when I go to Drupa each time.
Cary Sherburne: That’s perfect and have a couple beers and some spaetzle.
Carl Gerhardt: At least, at least a couple, yeah.
Cary Sherburne: I've only actually gone twice so far, so 2004 and 2008 and I think 2004 was the first year they Drupa Innovation Park. Do you visit that?
Carl Gerhardt: Yes. Yeah, I went the first time in 2000 was the first time that I went, but I’ve gone every time since then to you know repeats. So yeah, I try to catch as much as I can, but of course it’s so huge and so massive those that have not been to Drupa it’s hard to even describe how large it is compared to like Graph Expo because of the number of halls. So it takes a lot of time to see everything and you have to really kind of get organized ahead of time because you can get lost in the big crowds. You go up to a stand as they call them there. They don’t call them booths. They call them stands and if you don’t have an appointment you might have to wait a half an hour to get somebody to speak English you know because, so it’s all a bit of a different experience there so you have to have some specific reasons, specific things to do rather than just go walk the show floor. It’s more complicated than that.
Cary Sherburne: Well and what I liked about Drupa Innovation Park it was an opportunity for these smaller companies, many of whom probably aren’t even around since 2008, but you know you see some really interesting new companies and new technologies.
Carl Gerhardt: Because otherwise they’d get lost in the big conglomeration of things and you wouldn’t find them and if they go—you’re looking for some of the new things coming out it’s good that they do that there.
Cary Sherburne: So you know 2004 was kind of the digital Drupa I guess and 2008 was an inkjet Drupa. What do you think 2012? What are we going to call this one?
Carl Gerhardt: I don’t know that it needs a title, but I mean our industry is going through so much rapid change. I mean the digital thing is continuing and inkjet is continuing and so I don’t know, maybe the continuing Drupa and the consolidation really and the changing of what we even call it anymore. I mean it’s not only about print anymore. Those that are going to survive have to think beyond, way beyond print. We had a convention quite a number of years ago called Think Beyond Ink and so now it’s think beyond ink, think beyond toner and think beyond inkjet because now it’s some of the other services that we want to sell along with the output that we do that we feel where the future is, at least for our company and for our franchise members.
Cary Sherburne: Yeah, well that’s good. Well we’ll look forward to seeing you and your crowd at Drupa and maybe we’ll see you on-
Carl Gerhardt: I'll be there. See you in one of the beer halls maybe.
Cary Sherburne: Yeah, there we go. All right Carl, thanks.
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