Even though we already do a lot of printing, it's a continuous surprise to us how many customers come into our shop to drop off a package only to see us printing a vinyl banner or a run of stickers, then tell us they had no clue whatsoever we did that sort of thing.
Probably because the name "Bentonville Copy & Ship" doesn't suggest we do much more than copying and shipping!
And in 2022 we're going to offer even MORE printing services through our new partnership with Wild Beaver Print Co LLC of Rogers.
The Wild Beaver Print Shop at Bentonville Copy & Ship will broaden our operations beyond paper and vinyl printing by adding custom t-shirts, caps, bags, and other accessories! YEA!
And by putting "Wild Beaver Print Shop" front and center of our printing operations, we hope to bring awareness to unknowing, new and potential customers that we offer more than just copying and shipping services!
You'll see our staff wearing Wild Beaver themed t-shirts and hoodies along with some new signage popping up around the shop to promote all the cool new stuff we're able to do!
If you'd like more details on how we arrived at this change in our business model and a synopsis of the 30 year history of our company then read on. You'll learn more about us than you probably ever cared to know LOL
A Change in our Business Model
Over the years we've seen the shipping and packing side of our business in steady decline as more people bring in pre-paid shipping labels and the major retailers move towards exclusive Return Merchandise contracts with The UPS Store and FedEx Office. I'm referring mainly to those QR code based returns and, to name another example, the Dish Network/AT&T returns program.
Independent mailing centers like Bentonville Copy & Ship have been locked out of those programs even though we are authorized shipping centers. The impact of being locked out of those programs has been hard-hitting.
But while our packing and shipping business has declined, our printing business has been growing. A LOT.
Although our printing has centered around paper, vinyl and canvas products so far, we've experienced more people inquiring about apparel and other items. It became such a regular thing that shifting our focus towards printing feels like the next logical progression for our business.
Changes in our Core Customer Base
A little backstory first, though.
I was 17 when my parents started this business in the early 1990s, The first shop they opened was part of a retail shipping franchise then known as Mail Boxes Etc.
The corporate office based in California thought my parents were crazy for wanting to put a shop in NW Arkansas because, on paper, the demographics of NW Arkansas in 1990 didn't look like it could support a successful location.
But my parents knew something about NW Arkansas that the demographic studies failed to take into account - the Supplier community that traveled to NW Arkansas to do business with Walmart and Sam's Club.
My parents pushed ahead with opening of their shop and a few years later their Mail Boxes Etc. location was one of the top performing centers in the franchise's global network of 3000+ locations.
By the late 1990's, their shop was among the top 3 performing Mail Boxes Etc. stores in the United States and one of the top 5 in the world.
My parents' center won several awards from FedEx for having the highest shipping volume out of any Mail Boxes Etc. location worldwide. Our shop location - the same one we're currently in on South Walton Boulevard - was the largest Mail Boxes Etc.center in the entire network at the time.
UPS bought the Mail Boxes Etc. franchise around the year 2000 and turned all those locations into UPS Stores. That's when my parents decided to go independent and changed their name to Bentonville Copy & Ship.
For many, many years our core customers were the thousands of companies that sold products into Walmart and Sam's Club. We catered our services to that clientele and I'd be lying if I told you it didn't provide good returns.
Our business was all about shipping, packing, delivering product samples, and printing Power Point Presentations on paper and transparencies for overhead projectors (ah those days before laptops)! That's really all we did, day in and day out. Very little of our business came from local residents.
But Bentonville and all of NW Arkansas is very different now than it was 30 years ago or 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. We're not just a "company town" anymore. The throngs of people who would fly into XNA at the start of the week and cause our population to swell for a few days before leaving on Thursday evening or Friday morning isn't anything like what it used to be.
NW Arkansas boomed with new residents moving in. More businesses opened, more local events began happening, new nonprofits, new churches and new groups and organizations formed. And with that population boom, the NWA locals became our core customers (hence the introduction of our "We Love Local" branding in 2018).
We absolutely LOVE that organic shift in our customer base. Don't get us wrong - we still love our Supplier customers too and will continue to serve them. But it's fantastic to drive around town and see a banner we made hanging in front of a local small business or see posters we made hanging around a school promoting an event, or get behind a car with a vinyl sticker we made for their business on their back window.
And don't even get me started when a businesses or church or group we've printed materials for eventually grows too big for their home or shared space and moves into their own location - IT'S SO AMAZING AND MAKES US SO HAPPY!
Anyway, I've used a lot of words to say, emotionally, we feel super- invested in our community because of our customers, many of which we see on a weekly basis. We're still here post-COVID because our community rallied to support us in ways we never expected. Most importantly was the emotional support to encourage us to keep going because I was extremely close to locking the doors for good due to stress, frustration and exhaustion.
There are still many challenges in this business environment but at least we're out of the "just make it through today" mode and feeling like we can start to look forward.
We hope to serve our community even better through the changes we'll be making this year with the addition of The Wild Beaver Print Shop and whatever else we have up our sleeves!
Thanks be to ye -