December 14, 2016, 2:23 PM

Vistaprint’s parent puts more pens to paper with an acquisition

Custom printer Cimpress, parent of Vistaprint, buys promotional products distributor National Pen Co. for $218 million.

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Cimpress N.V. has been selling stationery, business cards and other custom products to businesses and consumers for a long time. Now it’s beefing up its line of personalized pens and other products through the purchase of National Pen Co.

Netherlands-based Cimpress, the parent of Vistaprint, a manufacturer and distributor of business and personal stationery, photo books and promotional products, agreed Monday to acquire National Pen Co. LLC, a maker and distributor of custom writing instruments for small and mid-sized businesses. The purchase price is $218 million in cash. Cimpress says the deal could close by the end of December, subject to various closing conditions including antitrust clearance in the U.S. and Germany.

Cimpress says National Pen, No. 158 in the 2017 B2B E-Commerce 300, will complement Cimpress’s technology and supply chain capabilities for promotional products, apparel and gifts. Custom pens are “a simple yet highly effective way for small business owners to market their companies,” says Robert Keane, Cimpress president and CEO. “National Pen has tremendous mass customization and related supply chain capabilities with which they deliver an unrivaled breadth and depth of customizable writing instruments with low minimum order quantities that meet the low-volume needs of small businesses.”

Keane notes that National Pen is a leader in promotional pen products and has manufacturing and supply chain capabilities that Cimpress does not. National Pen also has “strong competencies in direct marketing, telesales and data analytics, which have contributed to the consistent growth of its revenue,” he says.

The company will support and further develop National Pen’s e-commerce capabilities and add National Pen products to its Vistaprint and Upload and Print e-commerce brands. TheUpload and Print segment includes Europe-based Pixartprinting and Printdeal brands that let business customers place online orders for printed materials ranging from notepads to brochures and bound books.

The National Pen acquisition fits the Cimpress strategy to build more supply chain capabilities into its “mass customization platform,” which provides small-quantity orders to smaller customers. Cimpress notes it has automated many graphic processing steps that reduce per-order setup costs, and developed self-service, browser-based design tools.

“We expect our business to thrive as part of Cimpress, and we look forward to pursuing an exciting vision together to strive to eliminate the cost barriers that currently keep businesses from fully expressing their individual brands across a wide variety of personally relevant marketing materials and gifts,” says Peter Kelly, National Pen president and CEO.

San Diego-based National Pen will continue to sell products in its primary sales channel, a combination of direct mail and telephone sales.

DLA Piper represented Cimpress N.V. in the acquisition.

Cimpress estimates National Pen’s 2016 revenue will be about $275 million, reflecting year-over-year growth of about 10%.

For the first quarter of fiscal 2017 ended Sept. 30, Cimpress reported:

  • Total sales of $443.7 million, up 18.1% from $375.7 million in Q1 2016.
  • Vistaprint sales of $285.4 million, up 6.7% from $267.5 million.
  • Upload and Print unit sales of $132.0 million, up 72.5% from $76.5 million.
  • All Other Business sales of $26.3 million, down 17.0% from $31.7 million.
  • Net loss of $30.0 million compared with net income of $10.0 million in the same period last year.

The All Other Business units include the Netherlands-based Albumprinter and Norway-based FotoKnudsen, which sell photo albums to consumers; Most of World business units in Japan, India, Brazil and China; and Corporate Solutions business unit, which focuses on selling through merchants like office supplies retailer Staples Inc. Staples, which has been expanding its product lines, has said it expects much of its growth to come in B2B e-commerce.

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