Blankbooks, Looseleaf Binders and Devices

SIC 2782

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing blankbooks, including checkbooks and books with ruling paper, and looseleaf binders. Other items included in this industry are albums, ruled chart and graph paper, and record albums.

While blankbooks have been produced since the advent of the first printing presses, the modern-day concept of the looseleaf binder is only approximately 50 years old in the United States. The production of blankbooks, which includes checkbooks, ledger sheets, accounting books, and diaries, has changed little in its U.S. history, until recently. Modernization has replaced letterpress with offset printing for the small amount of actual printing involved in blankbook manufacturing.

The largest checkbook producers looked to product diversification for increased profits in the early 1990s, but mid-sized checkbook companies in the late 1990s were focusing on improving existing check printing systems to meet the ever-growing volume of checks written in the United States each year. One report stated that 61 billion checks were written in 1995, a figure that increased in the late 1990s by about 2 percent per year. However, according to the Federal Reserve System, the number of checks written had reached its height in the mid-1990s. A 2002 survey showed that the number of checks written in 2000 totaled 42.5 billion, valued at roughly $39.3 trillion. These figures were on the decline, however in the late 2000s. According to the Federal Reserve's 2007 Check Sample Study, the highest percentage of checks used were for remittance payments, such as payments to the government or to businesses that do not occur at the point of sale (POS). POS transactions, however, were increasingly being conducted with debit cards. Chris Allen of Hitachi Consulting told Investment Weekly News in March 2009,"Today's card-based payments have done much to erode the base of paper transactions in the U.S." Later that year a study by Moebs Services found that "Over the past 30 years, paper check usage has dropped from 85 percent of all transactions to less than 25 percent this year [2009]." CEO Mike Moebs said, "Our projections show that debit cards and automatic payments are taking over at an increasingly rapid rate from the traditional checking account for most Americans."

A different sector of the industry--that of looseleaf binders--saw manufacturers finding growth through innovation and diversification within their product lines. One of the most significant developments in this sector of the industry was the use of four-color lithograph on vinyl. This greatly eased the majority of the industry's manufacturing, which entails the production of custom-designed binders with company logos and other artwork.

Another major development for looseleaf binder manufacturers was the introduction of new flexible vinyls for binder covers. These vinyls are more durable and tighter fitting than their predecessors. However, they have posed problems for the industry because they are harmful to the environment; the vinyl does not decompose in landfills and releases a hazardous chemical when incinerated.

Competition among manufacturers is generally concentrated in the area of accessories, such as supplementary pockets and slots designed to carry additional awkward items. From the mid-1980s, binders with accessories have remained in strong demand with the advent of organizers--looseleaf date books with inserts, such as foldout maps and charts. For looseleaf binder manufacturers involved in the production of organizers, diversification has also been realized with profits derived from the sale of a large variety of insert refills.

Recurring predictions that blankbook and looseleaf binder manufacturers would suffer as a result of the emergence of the computer and Internet technology finally caught up with the industry in the late 1990s. Shipments of blankbooks and looseleaf binders and devices increased modestly from $1.50 billion in 2002 to $1.52 billion in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Looseleaf binders, devices, and forms, including those used for time planners-organizers, appointment books, photo albums, and scrapbooks, accounted for $1.37 billion (89 percent) of industry shipments that year. Blankbook making, except checkbooks, accounted for $366 million (7%) of shipments, and blankbooks and looseleaf binders and devices, not separated by kind, accounted for $187 million (4%). Overall sales in this industry category began to decline in the late 1990s and continued to do so into the mid-2000s, although shipment values rose slightly, reaching $1.63 billion in 2007.

In the late 2000s one of the largest companies producing blankbooks and looseleaf binders was ACCO Brands Corp. (formerly ACCO World Corp.). Based in Lincolnshire, Illinois, ACCO had sales of $1.5 billion and 5,100 employees in 2008. Another industry leader, Dallas, Texas-based Safeguard Business Systems Inc., operated as a subsidiary of New England Business Service Inc., which in turn was a subsidiary of the Deluxe Corp., the largest check printer in the country. Deluxe Corp. had 2008 sales of $1.4 billion and 7,172 employees. Burnes of Boston Inc., formerly known as Holson Burnes Group Inc., operated as a subsidiary of Newell Rubbermaid Inc., a manufacturing giant that had overall sales of $6.4 billion and 20,400 employees in 2008.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 204 establishments operating in this industry in 2007 and 8,605 employees. Employment had decreased from 9,594 in 2004. About 67 percent of employees were production workers, and total annual payroll was $297.1 million

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