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Market research critical for graphics arts, printing firm.

Market research critical for graphics arts, printing firm

The rapidly growing graphic arts and printing industry is presenting a challenge for companies across Canada and one not-so-small printing plant in the unassuming location of Dryden is responding.

Alex Wilson Coldstream Ltd. is a big frog in a small pond competing with an ocean of rivals.

The pond is northwestern Ontario, not exactly a haven for graphics arts companies. The ocean is an international market which includes Asia, Europe and the United States.

"We're constantly learning how to market our products in new ways," says Jacqueline Saville, the managing director at Alex Wilson Coldstream. "We're learning about new and existing markets through intensive studies. On-going market information is so important."

"Different markets require different approaches. Shipping structure, duty and foreign exchange are all important considerations alongside product marketing. We attend promotional shows with various product lines and we're always on the lookout for new products to cater to changes in design, age levels, interests and fads."

The company's primary products are placements or tray liners, process color brochures, a children's specialty line and a myriad of printing products. The company began in 1940 with the weekly newspaper The Dryden Observer. Founder Alex Wilson diversified early and the result is a multi-million dollar business which today is Canada's oldest placement manufacturer.

Saville says the commercial printing and specialty product lines are "growing very fast. It's a challenge for management to keep up and adapt to the growth."

To assist in meeting the challenge, Coldstream has established a product development committee which consists of creative, marketing and sales people.

The marketing sector in Canada is buckling down to face a new era of international competition and the Coldstream plant is in the thick of it. But Saville says the business also faces another unique challenge. Dryden, being located in a comparatively isolated region of the country, conjures up images of a crude existence.

"We constantly need to inform potential customers of our presence in the printing industry, particularly of the calibre of the company in spite of the fact that we're located in northwestern Ontario. We are constantly reassuring people that we can produce the products they desire - and that includes the government."

But attitudes are changing, due in large part to the company's ability to consistently provide quality products. A prime indicator of changing attitudes, says Saville, is recent shifts in government purchasing policies.

"The federal and provincial governments are making efforts to concentrate on businesses in the north," she says. "It's a relief that people finally know we are here."

Wilson expanded the weekly newspaper business into commercial black-and-white printing, then color and later process color. He transformed white paper from the local mill into office products, established a children's games specialty line and expanded into placement production.

The Dryden Observer is still part of the company as well, recently winning provincial and national journalism awards.
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Title Annotation:Focus on Dryden; Alex Wilson Coldstream Ltd.
Author:Costea, Thom
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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