The Kinko's Threat
Quick printers have long competed with in-plants for business, but Kinko's, fueled by the FedEx acquisition, could be turning up the heat even more.
By Bob Neubauer
With the recent $2.4 billion acquisition of Kinko's by FedEx, its fair to ask what impact this sale might have on in-plants. After all, even before FedEx stepped in, Kinko's provided significant competition, especially to in-plants at universities, where quick copy shops seem to congregate.
That competition heated up last fall when Kinko's returned to the course pack printing business that it abandoned more than a decade ago after it was sued by publishers for copyright infringement.
Add to this the fact that Kinko's has an entire facilities management division, actively looking to take over corporate printing and copying, and suddenly the influx of cash from FedEx looks a whole lot more troubling.
"I think this will give Kinko's additional leverage to continue the path of in-plant take-overs," worries Jennifer Bowers, director of Printing and Mailing Services at Florida State University, in Tallahassee. "Since many universities are dealing with FedEx in the mail room, they could easily look at bundling services."
Kinko's recently announced that Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., would be outsourcing document production to Kinko's. And at the On Demand show in New York recently, Kinko's had a large exhibit where it was pushing its new variable-cost outsourcing model and trying to differentiate itself from other print outsourcing firms, mostly equipment manufacturers.
Though FedEx wouldn't comment on the importance of Kinko's FM services to its growth plans, the company is certainly pleased with the Kinko's business model.
"We like the way they run their business," affirms Liana Sucar, FedEx spokeswoman. "I don't think there's any intention to change that."
And it's true, Kinko's runs its business very well, expanding from a single shop in 1970 to 1,200 branches worldwide today. Its name is one of the most well known in the quick printing business.