Photocopying and Duplicating Services

SIC 7334

Industry report:

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in reproducing text, drawings, plans, maps, or other copy by blueprinting, photocopying, mimeographing, or other methods of duplication other than printing or microfilming. Establishments primarily engaged in printing are classified under SIC 2752: Commercial Printing, Lithographic; SIC 2754: Commercial Printing, Gravure; and SIC 2759: Commercial Printing, Not Elsewhere Classified. Those companies engaged in providing microfilming services are classified under SIC 7389: Business Services, Not Elsewhere Classified.

Industry Snapshot

The quick-printing industry represents a relatively new dimension of both the commercial printing and graphic arts industries. Most companies in the photocopying industry began as printers offering while-you-wait service dubbed "quick printing." What began as a small segment of the printing market experienced phenomenal growth beginning in the 1970s, changing the printing industry forever. In 1969, 1,000 quick printers were operating in the United States, and by 1974 that number had reached 6,000. From 1975 to 1992, the quick-printing industry exploded, and an estimated 30,000 businesses were operational by the early 1990s.

The number of quick-printing establishments started to dwindle in the late 1990s, due to consolidation in the industry. By the early 2000s, however, consolidation had leveled off, with 5,852 quick-printing establishments existing in 2002. Sales in the industry, on the other hand, had increased at an annual rate of 10.6 percent between the early 1990s and early 2000s. By 2010, according to figures from Dun & Bradstreet, there were 6,640 photocopying and duplicating service establishments operating in the United States. Together these firms employed 58,058 people and generated $2.9 billion in annual revenues.

Organization and Structure

The quick-printing industry generally provides two types of services: convenience and commercial. With storefront locations in strip malls and downtown shopping districts, the convenience quick printer serves the needs of small businesses and consumers. Convenience quick printers include both independent and franchised operations that rely largely on copiers and paper plates on 11-inch by 17-inch presses. The commercial printer typically provides services similar to those of the convenience shop, with larger facilities and several added capabilities for serving the needs of larger businesses.

Background and Development

The quick-printing industry emerged from the development of the Itek camera/platemaker, acquired in the early 1960s by Bill LeVine, a commercial printer. This machine produced black ink on 8-inch by 11-inch paper with photocopiers or electrostatic plates, forming images in powdered or liquid ink directly on the surface to be printed.

In the 1970s, quick printing generally produced black-and-white or one-color offset prints on flat surfaces using photomechanical plates or paper mats. By the end of the decade, however, the industry was augmented by the introduction of high-speed copiers, which produced one-color prints.

By the 1980s, many quick printers were able to offer a variety of paper sizes and two- and four-color copies. Furthermore, high-speed copiers became more common in the industry, as did large document copiers. During this time, copier technology advanced, and some quick printers offered desktop publishing systems, camera and darkroom facilities, and advanced bindery equipment. The 1990s were dominated by the growing adoption of digital technology, new products and services, web pages and publishing, and transmission of data to the quick printer electronically. Regardless of a business' development, continued growth and perhaps survival were dependent on adaptation to and adoption of digital imaging and electronic communication. The historic paths to becoming a giant in the industry were to open multiple small sites and build volume, open a facilities management site within a large corporation, or migrate steadily from quick printing only to graphic arts services.

Some of the challenges to the industry have been the cost of paper, keeping up with technology, and the increasing demands for shorter turnaround time. In the late 1990s printing and copying was divided into four major areas: multicolor copying (26 percent), copying (25 percent), black and white (17 percent), and rapidly growing digital printing (6 percent).

Toner-based copying dramatically changed the nature of quick printing, especially for high-volume work. High-speed copying, able to produce quality halftones and two-sided copies, set the standards for the quick-printing industry. Wide format or folio printing also continued to grow with close to 200,000 printing devices installed in 1996.

To strengthen the scope of their service, quick-print shops began to expand into areas outside of copying and printing. For example, according to a 1990 National Association of Quick Printers (NAQP) member survey, 81 percent of its membership provided fax services and 53 percent offered desktop publishing. Some shops also started to rent computers and sell office supplies. Although not the source of major profits, such diversifications offered customers value-added service.

Many quick-print shops tested the market for color copying and further automation in desktop publishing. By 1992, more than 60 percent of NAQP's membership offered full-color copying. Moreover, a joint study conducted by the NAQP and Quick Printing magazine indicated that the companies widely regarded as industry leaders had offered color copying services since at least 1987.

As early as 1991, a study by Printing Industries of America predicted that quick printers would represent the largest segment of the printing industry, measured by the number of establishments, by the year 2000. Much of this growth was attributed to the introduction of franchise operations during the mid-1970s. The prediction proved true as franchisers became an integral part of the quick-printing industry, and the top four companies had roughly 1,000 shops each.

Acquisitions and mergers were prevalent in 1996. There were 85,000 high-speed copiers operating in the United States, with 45 percent of them in the print-for-profit sector. Quick-print shops derived 35 percent of their revenue from copiers that are easier to operate than presses and incorporate finishing productions such as binding and/or stitching or gluing.

With the market for photocopying and duplication services booming, retailers in related industries saw the opportunity for expansion. Their distribution infrastructure was already in place via an established chain of retail outlets. Office superstores found easy entrance to the market by establishing quick-print sites in their stores. Office superstores such as Office Depot, OfficeMax, and Staples actively sought a chunk of the traditional quick-print market. For example, by the mid-1990s, OfficeMax had carved out 5,000 to 7,000 CopyMax quick-print shops within its stores.

Video capturing, a process in which individual frames can be pulled from videotape and incorporated into printed materials, represented another area for growth in the industry during the 1990s. The ability to generate art and assemble pages electronically also provided a new form of revenue. According to Bob McKarney of the quick-print franchise Sir Speedy, "In the near future, quick printers will be able to go directly from computer to press. PC color software and filmless platemaking systems were developed before the century ended. For short runs (300 to 500), an operator could direct graphics directly from computer to color copier." By 2000, this proved to be true.

The industry experienced its first-ever decline in sales in 1991 but recovered and continued to grow throughout the decade. Observers had predicted up to a 25 percent reduction of shops in the mid-1990s, claiming that only those capable and willing to keep up with technology would survive. Tom Carnes, president of PDQ Printing, observed in American Printer that "the market is over saturated with quick printers. Many are good at putting ink on paper but not at running a business." Elwood Smith, past president of NAQP, agreed, saying in American Printer, "Many quick printers won't make it," adding that "Those that do will have to provide extra-good service and quality products. They will have to be customer oriented and market driven."

A growing number of quick printers were turning to the Internet for advertising. For example, displaying initial color proofs for review by clients, StarNet provided an on-demand fully digital printing service running Docutechs and Indigo E-Print 1000 machines. Another company, Dave's World, was set up exclusively for Internet and intranet work. Targeting audiences and specializing became more important than generalizing and diversifying.

Although the number of quick-print establishments shrank as the twentieth century neared an end, the industry was nevertheless growing in 2000, up approximately 13 percent for the year. That represented a significant rebound for an industry that was coming off a decrease of 23 percent in shipments in 1999. Chains and franchises began dominating smaller, independent printers who had further trouble as paper and energy prices rose in the early 2000s. The 10 leading states in terms of number of quick printers saw a drop in the number of operations in 2000, with Texas experiencing the biggest loss of 11 percent fewer quick printers.

Demand for inexpensive copies and among commercial customers continued to increase into the 2000s. New, large-format printing technologies enabled printers to produce commercial photos and graphics. The rise of digital photography--with 22 percent of households in the United States owning a digital still camera at the end of 2002--also helped widen the market. Kinko's announced in April 2003 that it would install digital print kiosks in 800 locations due to the high demand for retail-based digital photofinishing services. Many outlets also allowed customers to plug their laptops directly into the company's printers.

However, quick-printing competition increased in other areas with the popularity of e-mail and web sites as marketing vehicles. By the late 2000s, most of the major quick printers offered services via the Web, including the ability to take orders, upload digital documents, and offer same-day service. Customers could also design business cards, logos, and other products online where they could be saved for easy reordering. With the growth of technology, portable printers for photo and general printing came on the market in the mid-2000s. With their ease of use, convenience for business travelers, and many of the units priced under $200, quick-print establishments faced increased competition as the popularity of such printers rose.

Current Conditions

As copying service firms struggled to recover from the economic recession of the late 2000s, they continued to compete with each other in terms of high-tech products and services. For example, Xerox's new Color 1000 Press printer allowed copying of highlighted images and text as well as folding, collating, and stapling capabilities through its built-in program, SquareFold BookletMaker. According to American Printer, Conlin's Digital Print & Copy Center in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, was one of the first copy service stores in the area to purchase one of the machines. According to owner Bill Conlin, "Successful businesses rely on emerging technology and marketing trends. This investment in Xerox equipment distinguishes our printing capabilities from the competition." In addition, such multifunctional machines minimized production and setup time, which in turn increased print service companies' revenue potential.

Another new technology that affected copy services involved mobile printing. According to eWeek, Hewlett Packard's new MPS (Managed Print Services) Smart Decision Suite was targeted to businesspeople who needed copies but did not have access to a computer or a printer. According to the article, "a person using a BlackBerry [phone] can search for the nearest connected printer--wherever it may be located--enter a security code, go to the printer, and obtain the printout on demand in a matter of minutes." Locations that housed these printers included Hilton hotels and all FedEx Office locations.

Figures from Dun & Bradstreet showed that a majority of photocopying and duplicating service establishments in the United States were small, with about 60 percent employing fewer than 10 workers. The top states in terms of numbers of establishments in 2010 included California (1,347), Texas (519), Florida (460), and New York (443). California accounted for most of the industry's revenues, registering $974.3 million in sales in 2009, or about 33 percent of the total. Texas followed at a distance with $239.7 million, and New York was third with $213.8 million.

Industry Leaders

Among the leading companies in the early 2010s, including private and franchise firms, were FedEx Office and Print Services Inc. (formerly FedEx Kinko's Office and Print Services) of Dallas, Texas, and TRM Copy Centers, headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Top franchises in the industry in the early 2010s in terms of dollar volume included Allegra, American Speedy Printing, Insty-Prints, Speedy Printing, Zippy Print, AlphaGraphics, Sir Speedy Printing, and Minuteman Press, among others.

TRM Copy Centers LLC was founded in 2007 when TRM Corporation, begun in 1981, sold its photocopy division to Skyview Capital. Rather than owning and operating retail copying centers, TRM placed its 17,000 copy centers in small, independent retail establishments such as pharmacies, gift shops, and convenience stores throughout metropolitan areas in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. This mode of operation allowed the company to maximize its market potential and more effectively compete with regional shops. Host locations of TRM copiers collected the usage fees for the copiers and were billed by TRM on a monthly basis. TRM's inventory of copy machines consisted largely of copiers that the company rebuilt to better-than-new condition and serviced through a highly trained field staff. Most customers used TRM machines for convenient, low-volume copying at reasonable prices.

With more than 800 centers throughout 15 countries, Sir Speedy, Inc. was one of the world's largest franchisers of copying centers. Headquartered in California, the Sir Speedy franchise network generated more than $400 million in network sales in 2004. The annual average sales revenue for a typical Sir Speedy center exceeded $500,000; of those franchises, the top 25 averaged over $1 million in sales.

Kinko's Copies--formerly a nonfranchised corporation controlled by Paul Orfalea--became the renamed FedEx Kinko's Office and Print Services Inc., after being acquired by FedEx for $2.4 billion in 2004. In 2008 "Kinko's" was dropped from the name. Sales throughout the 1,950 business centers in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia in 2009 were an estimated $1.9 billion. In the 1990s, in major move possibly precipitated by a copyright infringement lawsuit, Kinko's decided to shift from a college student clientele toward small and medium-size businesses, including self-employed people working from home. It also equipped its stores with self-service desktop publishing computers. Voice and video services, allowing customers to conduct video conferencing, began in 1996. By the early 2010s all centers offered Internet access to customers. With its copying and computer supplemental services, the company catered to executives, small business owners, and home office workers. Nearly all FedEx Office and Print Services shops are open 24 hours a day and market themselves as the customer's branch office.

Cypress, Texas-based Kwik Kopy Corp. was among the oldest quick-print shops in the industry. Founded in 1967 as an offshoot of Bud Hatfield Printers, Kwik Kopy had 25 printing centers by 1970. In 1972, when franchising became the leading trend in the quick-printing industry, Kwik Kopy's business flourished, and by 1977 the company had established 170 printing centers in 18 states. Posting an 18 percent growth rate annually in the early 1990s, Kwik Kopy had 735 centers in 13 countries, including Canada, Australia, South Africa, Israel, and the United Kingdom, by 2000. The company's Stars program allows franchisees to mentor their peers by visiting each other's shops, suggesting changes, and submitting feedback to corporate headquarters. Kwik Kopy's target customers are volume repeat corporate accounts.

AlphaGraphics, which operated about 260 stores in 10 countries worldwide, offered AlphaLink Direct, allowing customers to electronically transmit documents and graphics from their home, office, or laptop computer directly to local AlphaGraphics sites around the world. The company was founded in 1970 on the principle of combining high technology with sound business practices.


About 58,058 owners, managers, and other employees were employed by this industry in the early 2010s, according to Dun & Bradstreet. In 1997, the total number of employees involved strictly in photocopying and duplicating services was 87,221, with approximately 75 percent production workers.

By the turn of the twenty-first century, the photocopying and duplicating services industry was dominated by large franchise operations and operations linked to office superstores. Nonetheless, average sales for all establishments, many of which were single-owner, small shops, were an estimated $600,000. An average of nine employees worked in each shop.

America and the World

Quick-copy centers expanded internationally in two ways. Some particularly well-financed franchise operations opened shops abroad. Others, including independent operations, added services geared toward international business communications needs.

Franchises such as AlphaGraphics and Sir Speedy established operations in Russia, Hungary, Australia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, and Mexico. AlphaGraphics planned to build a network of 40 printing franchises in Mexico and expected to open 40 shops in Spain. In 2000, Sir Speedy expanded into Thailand, Singapore, and Poland.

Some expansion plans took the form of joint ventures, such as the union of American Speedy Printing Centers of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, with a British printing shop to create EuroSpeedy Printing Centers in the United Kingdom. The former Kinko's branched out into the Japanese market with services based in Nagoya under the name Kinko's Japan KK.

Smaller, independent quick printers found that exporting services was not the only way to take advantage of the growing global economy. Many quick printers began offering foreign language word processing, page layout, and typesetting computer programs; translation and proofreading services; and an increased awareness of foreign standards for paper and envelope sizes and business forms.

Research and Technology

The most dramatic technological developments in the industry in the late twentieth century involved desktop publishing. Elwood Smith claimed that "Desktop publishing represents the next step in the evolution of quick printing--the most important innovation since the Itek camera/platemaker." Offering one-stop service for all printing needs, AlphaGraphics was one of the first quick printers to become involved in publishing, referring to itself as a desktop publishing retailer. Most other shops had made complete conversions to computerized service by the early 2000s and offered computerized page layout, high-speed copiers, high-speed laser printing, and electronic color copying.

Computers were also used increasingly for managing shop operations in the industry. By the early 2000s, utilizing software for estimating needs, tracking orders, and updating inventory had become the industry standard.

A new class of multifunction peripherals combining printing, copying, scanning, and faxing into a single system also emerged. The former Xionics Document Technologies, Inc. was initially the leading supplier of these embedded systems, whose technology was adopted by Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Seiko, Epson, and Panasonic. RISO Inc. furthered the trend toward multifunction systems by making it possible to incorporate once separate, after-print operations such as perforation, slitting, scoring, folding, and stapling. According to Hoover's in 2010, "The company's core printer-duplicator line is designed to handle jobs too big for a standard office copier, but not large enough to require an offset printer." Another innovation was Electronics for Imaging's (EFI) Fiery line of equipment, which included stand-alone print servers and print controllers that companies such as Canon and Xerox could integrate into their equipment. In addition, EFI's Print MIS software provided everything a business needed from print job submission to fulfillment.

New "gapless" printers pioneered by Heidelberg-Harris were followed by other versions from Mitsubishi, KBA, and MAN Roland. The technology eliminated or minimized the blanket and cylinder gaps and made it feasible to build wide-format color quality offset presses that ran at high speeds and took a digital image and printed it on paper, film, canvas, or adhesive-backed material for large-format jobs. Once limited to pen plotters, by the early 2000s it claimed 85 percent of the inkjet market. Changes in plotters resulted in applications in quick-print shops with large-format color printing solutions.

By 2010, many copy shops offered Web to print options, which basically meant that customers could customize, order, proof, and print copies all online. Many also used print shops' online services to track and manage orders. Sir Speedy, which offered the MyDocs program, noted that "As our customer and their users became more used to the system and the benefits of ordering all of their printed materials this way, more and more of their pieces went from being static, generic documents to personalized, on-demand products."

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