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Big Shop Gets Bigger

October 1998

A new five-color press is just the beginning for Spartan Stores, which plans to expand its in-plant even more.

Wander through any grocery store and you are likely to see thousands of dollars worth of printing. Posters line the windows, inviting shoppers to come inside; stacks of circulars greet them as they walk through the automatic doors; and multi-color shelf cards point out sale items.

Then there are the endless ad inserts in the Sunday paper. Who designs and prints up all this material? For a group of grocery retailers in the Midwest, it's the in-plant print shop at Spartan Stores.

Forget about outsourcing in an industry where profit margins are traditionally as thin as deli-sliced ham. Spartan's internal shop is thriving. In fact, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based food wholesaler intends to expand its printing facility over the next two years.

It is an expansion that already began with the purchase of a five-color Speedmaster 74 perfector about a year and a half ago. The Speedmaster joined two other two-color Heidelberg sheetfed presses, and a host of Heidelberg USA products in the bindery. The Speedmaster's 29˝ size and 15,000 sph speed helps keep prices competitive.

"The size met our needs more so than the larger size format," says David A. DeWildt, director of printing and design for Spartan Stores. "We have shorter to mid-sized runs, and the quick setup times seemed to be a better fit for us."

The Spartan print shop runs as a company within a company, working for a series of different clients and accountable for all its own expenses. Last year it brought in an impressive $15.4 million in sales.

Spartan Stores is a cooperative of Midwestern retail food chains, which supplies wholesale foods and corporate services to its retailer owners. But the retailers are not bound to work with the Spartan print shop. They can go to other print shops if they're able to find a better deal. So the printing and design department must be tight and efficient while still producing quality printing.

"We still have to capture their business, just like a commercial printer," DeWildt notes. "We consistently fall below retailer prices."

This is accomplished by bringing everything from design to delivery under one roof so that there's never a question of who is responsible for what.

The retailers are not the only group the printing department must keep happy. It has corporate bosses as well. So in addition to keeping quality high and prices low, the department must also show a profit.

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