||This article has been nominated to be checked for its neutrality. (February 2012)|
|Traded as||NASDAQ: VPRT|
|Area served||Global, over 120 countries|
|Key people||Robert Keane (CEO)|
|Industry||printing, especially print on demand|
|Revenue||US$1,020.3 million (FY 2012)|
|Type of site||e-commerce|
Vistaprint is an online supplier of printed and promotional material and marketing services to micro businesses and consumers, specializing in print on demand products. In 2007 the company was listed in the annual Graphic Arts Monthly 101 listing, as the 40th largest (by revenue) and the 4th fastest growing printing company in North America. It is also the 6th largest public printing company (by market cap).
For the fiscal year 2012, revenue grew to $1,020.3 million, a 25 percent increase over revenue of $817.0 million in 2011. Excluding impact from currency exchange rate fluctuations and revenue from acquired business, total revenue grew 20 percent for the full year.
The company is based in Venlo, Netherlands. It employs over 4,900 employees globally in its offices and printing facilities. The company’s U.S. offices are in Lexington, Massachusetts, while its European offices are in Barcelona, Spain. Its three printing facilities, which total almost 74,000 square metres (800,000 sq ft) of production space, are in Deer Park, Victoria, Australia; Windsor, Ontario, Canada; and Venlo. Vistaprint uses patented technology to aggregate and print large numbers of customized orders in its automated production facilities in North America and Europe.
Orders for North America are printed in Windsor; Asian orders in Deer Park; and European orders are printed in Venlo. The company’s customer service call center, Vistaprint Jamaica Ltd., is in Montego Bay, Jamaica and has been staffed by company employees since it was opened in November 2003.
Vistaprint was founded in Paris, France in 1995 by current President and CEO Robert Keane, immediately following his graduation from INSEAD Business School. The company moved to Massachusetts in 2000, in order to survive the burst of the dot-com bubble, the company’s staff was cut from 70 to 20, but in 2001 the company started turning a profit. Originally starting with business cards as its only product, the company expanded to postcards, letterhead, stamps, and return address labels.
In September 2005, the company went public with an initial public offering. Now publicly traded on the NASDAQ, Vistaprint had growth rates in the 50-60% range in 2007, according to its earnings statements. It opened a European office in Barcelona, Spain in September 2006. In 2009, Vistaprint relocated to Venlo, and the offices of the company president and CEO, Robert Keane, moved to a newly opened Paris, France office along with Vistaprint's corporate strategy division.
In 2011 Vistaprint bought the Amsterdam based company, Albumprinter, which operated throughout Europe under the brand names Albelli, Bonusprint or Önskefoto.
Vistaprint applies the principles of mass production to printing, using presses and processes of industrial printing for short-run commercial printing, while achieving unit costs close to that of industrial printing. Using proprietary technologies, relatively short runs are still relatively inexpensive.
Vistaprint's proprietary process involves multiple software components, and the management of multiple production components, in an end-to-end production workflow from "click to ship". Vistaprint is vertically integrated with production facilities for North America in Windsor, Ontario and for Europe in Venlo, Netherlands. The company uses presses such as the manroland 700 as part of its printing assembly line.
The company processes orders through their web site. Jobs are gang printed using a formula based on type of job, paper stock type, print run quantity, finishing (if any) and ship-by dates, among other factors.
Vistaprint minimizes user selectable options, printing standard types of printed materials, such as business cards or postcards. Within each category, it supports only specific size, paper stock and ink colors. This results in higher numbers of similar jobs which can be ganged together. Changeover time is reduced because there's less need to change paper or inks between jobs.
Vistaprint uses computer-integrated manufacturing techniques to minimize human intervention and labor costs. Using browser-based desktop publishing environment, customers design and proofread the job. Jobs are routed for printing without intervention. The printing is done in a single pass on automated, high-volume, large format professional quality presses. Once printed, the products are cut down to size using a computerized robotic cutter, assembled, packaged and addressed using proprietary software driven processes, and shipped to the customer.
In a form of mass customization using as little as 60 seconds of production labor per order versus an hour or more for traditional printers, Vistaprint is able to print orders faster and at lower costs than traditional printers. Their strategy is to target small-run orders usually excluded from conventional large printers.
One of the company's early hires was an in-house patent attorney. So far, Vistaprint has secured 28 issued patents in the U.S. and has additional pending patent applications in the United States and other countries.
The company has described its objective as a "minefield of patents" and has been active in pursuing companies that it considers to be infringing on those patents. In 2006, Vistaprint filed a patent infringement suit against Print24 GmbH and UnitedPrint.com AG. A German court ruled in favor of Vistaprint in July 2007. However, after appealing, the German Federal Patent Court ruled in favor of Unitedprint.com, rescinding Vistaprint’s controversial software patent in March 2009.
Separately, in May 2007, Vistaprint filed a patent infringement suit against two Taylor Corporation subsidiaries 123Print and DrawingBoard.
In 2007, Vistaprint announced a strategic partnership with OfficeMax to provide an in-store station in up to 900 OfficeMax stores in the US and Mexico. OfficeMax ImPress is an OfficeMax-branded web site for small business printing based on Vistaprint technologies. In 2008, Vistaprint announced a strategic partnership with Intuit, a supplier of accounting software, tying their service into Intuit's QuickBooks software using an Intuit-branded web site. In 2009, the company also announced it will supply services for the FedEx Office brand. The company announced in 2012 that it had entered into a strategic partnership with Staples Inc..
Vistaprint has a multinational corporation structure, consisting of a parent company in the Netherlands, and subsidiaries in other locations including Bermuda, Jamaica, Canada, Spain, France and the United States. In a public quarterly earnings announcement July 30, 2009 it was revealed that Vistaprint’s board of directors concluded that it was in the best interest of the company and its shareholders to move the corporate domicile from Bermuda to the Netherlands, and to establish a two-tier board structure that is typical in Dutch corporate governance. The company also established a headquarters office in Paris. The company cited internationalism in market objectives, operations, corporate culture and corporate structure as reasons for the re-incorporation.
Like many ecommerce companies, Vistaprint uses its pages to promote business relationships with third parties, through which the company generates referral, affiliate or advertising revenue. Since this form of co-marketing has almost no associated cost, it is highly profitable. In general, where such co-marketing results in a one-off customer purchase there is little criticism. However, this is significantly more controversial when it results in recurring (membership-related) billing.
In the US, Vistaprint has been accused of enrolling customers into Vertrue's paid-membership reward plan without the customer's agreement. Credit card details are passed on to Vertrue (formerly Memberworks Incorporated) by Vistaprint, and charges are then made on those credit cards by Vertrue without the owner's consent. Numerous complaints have been received by ConsumerAffairs.com and The Better Business Bureau by consumers objecting to these charges. Some consumers complain of still being charged after canceling the reward plan membership, and others that more than a year after cancelling membership, the charges began again.
Vistaprint's partnerships in the United Kingdom have attracted criticism. Critics have stated that Vistaprint's customers are enrolled without their knowledge in a reward voucher scheme operated by an associated company, VPrewards.com, at a cost of £9.95 a month, that no information on the reward scheme is provided to customers subsequently and that it is up to the customers to detect the fact that they have been enrolled as members and to cancel unwanted membership. A similar program operates in the USA. The number of complaints is significant enough to generate awareness on the web and to be a cause for concern. For complainants, the company claims publicly to cancel the membership, and refunds the monthly membership fees.
On November 30, 2009, the company announced that it had terminated its contract with an affiliate of Vertrue Inc., effective December 20, 2009, and that, it had ended all membership rewards or similar programs.
On September 2, 2009, the company announced that the class action lawsuit pending against Vistaprint USA Inc., Vistaprint Ltd. and two third-party merchants in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, had been dismissed by the Court. In the process of dismissing the case, the Court found "without reservation" that, as a matter of law, the web pages on which the membership discount programs were offered on Vistaprint.com were clearly written and not deceptive.
In August 2008, the company announced that class action lawsuits relating to the membership discount programs offered by third party merchants on Vistaprint's USA website had been filed against Vistaprint USA Inc., Vistaprint Corp., and two third party merchants (Vertrue Inc. and its subsidiary Adaptive Marketing LLC) in Texas and New Jersey. Two additional class-action suits were subsequently filed in both Massachusetts and Alabama. The four complaints, all filed in federal courts, alleged that the defendants were in violation of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (which protects from unauthorized charges) and the federal Electronic Communications and Privacy Act (which prohibits the unlawful access of financial information). "As we allege in the complaint, we believe that Vistaprint and Vertrue are acting in concert to access consumers' credit card information and then begin charging them relatively small amounts," said Jerome Noll, counsel for the plaintiff that filed the Massachusetts suit. "You're talking about $14.95 a month or $12.95 a month, hoping that consumers just won't notice."
From a financial perspective, some observers and analysts[who?] contend that this type of highly profitable third-party revenue distorts the company's finances. A relatively small referral revenue can have a relatively large impact on the net income. While Vistaprint, as a public company, properly includes this revenue in its quarterly figures, it is argued that excluding this revenue gives a better picture of the company's true profitability and the value of its stock. For example, in FY 2008, Vistaprint's revenue was $400.7m with 6.9% of this ($27.6m) coming from referral fees, the "majority" of which comes from the rewards program. This can be contrasted with the net income for the same period of $39.8m.
ASA pricing adjudication
Following complaints from UK customers, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated pricing irregularities on Vistaprint's UK website and leaflet distributions. The resulting investigation upheld these complaints. The most significant was that the advertised price was shown excluding VAT though not stated as excluding it, on the supposition that customers would be exempt from paying VAT (or could claim it back). The ASA concluded that without verifiable evidence that all customers were exempt from VAT, the claim was unsubstantiated and would result in a payment above that quoted.
Despite the ASA's repeated requests for the advertising to be re-worded or discontinued, Vistaprint (as at 5 October 2011) had failed to take the requested action, and the ASA placed the company's UK website on its list of 'Non-compliant online advertisers'.
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