In its first quarterly report as a public company, VistaPrint
And this is not a dot-com that is sacrificing profits for revenue growth. In the third quarter, net income was $2.9 million, up from a loss of $20.4 million in the same period a year ago. (The big number last year was the result of a contract termination charge). Net of that charge, net income for the same period last year would've come in at $589 thousand. In all, the company has $88 million in the bank.
On the face of it, VistaPrint looks like an ordinary business; that is, it offers things such as business cards, brochures, announcements, calendars, letterhead, holiday cards, and so on. But to deliver these services in a cost-effective way to consumers and small businesses, VistaPrint has built a finely tuned infrastructure that leverages cutting-edge technologies and best practices.
Basically, VistaPrint has automated the entire graphic design process -- from initial design to product shipment. When a customer visits the website, he uses software to create professional-looking products. In fact, there are more than 10,000 customized orders per day.
Next, VistaPrint processes these print jobs into a single press-run, which involves complex optimization calculations. The result is that the company can handle, say, an average $30 order rate with gross profit margins of 60%, which is twice the industry standard.
If we're to step back, the company's advantage to this point is that it has a head start in terms of automating a cumbersome process. But with such margins, competition will intensify and pricing power will decline. To this point, the company has used IPO proceeds to continue investing in its system. It stands to reason that as competition comes in, VistaPrint would perhaps generate more economies of scale as pricing starts to erode. The jury's still out on that one.
What's more, VistaPrint has been savvy in marketing its service. For example, it uses a viral approach in which customers can get free business cards; however, the cards have this printed on the back: "Cards are FREE at www.VistaPrint.com."
According to Robert Keane, VistaPrint's CEO: "We are ranked among the leading e-commerce destinations for small businesses with an average of three to four million unique visitors per month. This is on par with major online retailers like Staples
Yes, so far, it appears that VistaPrint has developed a platform that works. And, with 38 million small businesses in the U.S. and Europe, there's lots of room for growth.
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Fool contributor Tom Taulli does not own shares mentioned in this article.