Seattle, Wash - 25-Aug-2011 - RPI, a leader in make-on-demand private label personalized photo books, greeting cards and stationery products for mass and specialty retailers, announced the acquisition of Paro Group BV, a wholly-owned subsidiary of JP Media Group located in Eindhoven, Netherlands. The acquisition includes the assets of Paro Printing and Paro Books. The combined companies will have 180 employees in one Eindhoven and two Seattle locations. (Eindhoven was recently named the most intelligent community of the year for 2011.)
RPI has been in what CEO Rick Bellamy calls the mass customization business since 1999. Paro has a background in traditional printing of corporate communications and marketing collateral for global brands, but over the last six to seven years has heavily focused on personalized products. The two companies have had a relationship since 2006, sharing best practices as well as production and sales information, growing a strong cultural bind. Bellamy said, “This acquisition made sense, allowing us to take some of our learnings from the U.S. market to the European market and vice versa to ignite growth.” While Bellamy declined to disclose revenues, he added, “RPI has been growing rapidly year-over-year organically, and this acquisition will increase revenues by half again what we are now.”
Both companies have all-digital production using HP, Océ and Xerox equipment. Both are highly focused on lean manufacturing and automation through computer integrated manufacturing (CIM). Bellamy said, “This high degree of automation and process control allows us to scale the business and our manufacturing techniques. A number of our products are gifting, which has high seasonality around the holidays. So the ability to scale is important and one of the cultural items that made this a classic fit for the two of us.”
Although RPI has some kiosks in retail locations where consumers can order personalized products at point of sale, the majority of the business comes through customized web portals the company provides on behalf of its customers. Products are produced and fulfilled by RPI on behalf of the retailer as though they came directly from the retailer. Bellamy comments, “Our customer agreements prohibit us from identifying who they are; they consider us their secret sauce. But a growing number of these retailers are looking to expand their own markets to one or the other of the continents, and together, we will be able to help them expand seamlessly into these new markets.” Van den Hurk points out that in some cases, both companies are serving the same customers on their respective continents, making the acquisition even more logical for both them and their customers.
While both Bellamy and van den Hurk are quick to point out that the marketing collateral business will continue to be a focus of the company in the Netherlands and those customer needs will continue to be met, they see the growth area lying in personalized products such as photo books, social stationery (wedding invitations, greeting cards, calendars, notebooks, notepads, etc., that can be customized or personalized). Bellamy adds, “I hesitate to even use the term ‘photobooks,’ since that encompasses such a broad range of applications for us, including consumer books, self-publishing and commercial applications.”