Is Square Foot Pricing Killing Our Industry?

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sq ft vs per sheet

this article hits the nail on the head regarding the printing services. my firm has adopted a similar strategy and successfully deployed many of the tactics described. the good customers get it and appreciate your efforts. smaller firms become more valuable clients. the difficult customers are usually going to find a reason to leave no matter what. consider putting the energy and cost you would use to retain them into acquiring new clients who better fit your business model. these new clients will be more profitable and rewarding to work with for your staff.

it is important that you plan carefully before rolling out new price model. speak to key clients one to one, communicate with your team on how to answer customer questions, and listen to customers before tweaking it. transitions are painful no matter how you slice it. we all need to be paid for the effort and investment per job, but be careful not to nickel and dime.

we also need to present ourselves as experts in document management. this is an entirely different subject, but an important message for all repro firms to disseminate. we are capable of solving a big problem in construction doc management, reliable distribution of current sets.

Robert Swartz more than 2 years ago

No reason to delay the transition from per sq ft to per print

I totally agree with Paul (and with the others who’ve opined) reprographers should change pricing from per sq ft (or per sq meter, in the case of some companies in eastern/central Europe) to “per print.” It won’t be an easy transition, though, for “customer education” will need to be involved to smooth the transition. And, without an early-on buy-in from a substantial majority of reprographers, it could be messy, at least for a while.

As to pricing “per sq ft and “half-size”, very early on in the switch from analog to digital, we adopted a “minimum sq ft” requirement for ALL large-format copying and printing. [We adopted that minimum sq ft size – ours was 3 sq ft – not just for large-format copies and prints (and scans) but for all large-format finishing services as well (think mounting and laminating). We had zero problems with customers about our minimum sq ft size policy. It was clearly explained in every pricing proposal.] [Years ago, one of the largest reprographics companies in the U.S., the one based in Washington, DC, adopted 5 sq ft as its minimum size for billing purposes.]

Several mentioned CAD color copying/printing, and the difference between pricing for large-format b/w CAD vs. large-format color CAD (printing and copying). In less than a year, I expect our industry will see HP’s PageWide wide-format printers hit the market. For those of you who have not read my opinions (on my blog, Reprographics 101) about the impact that HP’s PageWide printers may likely have on the reprographics marketplace – equipment-wise and, especially, pricing-wise – you may choose to keep pricing for Color CAD prints/copies at a premium to black & white CAD prints/copies, but do not be at all surprised when some reprographers begin offering the same exact price (per sq ft or per print) for Color and b/w. If the cost to produce proves to be the same (and I believe that’s what HP indicated when they released news about PageWide) then selling price may also prove to be the same. (Note that the price to produce small-format color copies/prints is higher than the cost to produce small-format b/w copies/prints, and that’s because of FSMA click charges. “Resultingly”, there has always been, and still is, a premium price, small-format color vs. small-format b/w.)

Joel Salus more than 2 years ago

Charging by sheet size

Paul, it is a great subject and you make some excellent points. Obviously it is well documented that in Europe pricing by the sheet has predominantly always been the formula used, I think it is also fair to say the black and white plan printing volumes in North America have always been significant higher than Europe and this was a major factor in the pricing differences. However with the introduction of document management systems, the recession , non-paper viewing formats and generally businesses looking to reduce costs wherever possible that volume over the last 5 years has been in decline, I'm sure still substantial but now there is a new opportunity which is Cad colour. With black and white prices so low the difference to upgrade to colour is too great , moving to sheet pricing on both black and white and colour will help narrow this gap, and in turn make the switch from blackened white to colour for your client more accessible. Your clients are working in colour now in everything they do and draw, and once they start printing in colour they will not go back. As a business you will achieve a much better GP if you narrow the gap between the black and white and colour and in turn be providing a much more valuable and desirable product. My fear would be if you continue printing in Black and white and not make colour plans accessible in the end the clients will bypass you and find another way , ultimately your end up losing the black and white volume and the colour !!

Steve Cheek more than 2 years ago

Pricing format

Steve, thank you for giving us the European prospective on the subject. We are grateful.

Paul Fridrich more than 2 years ago

In Australia we charge by sheet size

We have just charged on print sizes over here (PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) from my last 25 Years in the industry. Is it true that you charge per sqr foot?



In the last three months our colour cad printing has surpassed what we have been doing black and white. We have adjusted our pricing to make a decent profit level that everyone decides to do the prints in colour. Others, we just know they need colour and give them a price they cant refuse.

Rob Macdougall more than 2 years ago

Charging by Sheet Size

I thank Paul and the IRGA for tackling this topic. I cannot think of many things more important to the industry. Regarding rounding up square footage to standard sizes, this doesn't go nearly far enough. We need to either institute square footage minimums per print to address the abundance of half size prints, or (as you suggest) leave the square footage/sheet size model altogether.

Doug Magid more than 2 years ago

Charging by Sheet Size

Paul: All fantastic points. Europe is way ahead of the U.S. in terms of pricing models. They charge by the sheet, and their Half-Size prints are priced at about 80% of what the Full-Size version is. This is as it should be. It has always fascinated me that construction budgets are a series of total cost factors on a spread sheet, broken out by the month for the purposes of construction line drawdown, e.g.: Drywall: $134,500, Structural steel: $265,456, etc. Yet, here we are, giving up square foot prices, with no quantities so that the client can calculate total cost. This sets up a zero-sum game for the reprographers, with unit price of print defining our value in the digital age. The entire reprographic industry needs to get behind this!

Gene Klein more than 2 years ago

Charging by Sheet Size

At our most recent conference in Las Vegas, ReproMAX Partner companies had a lengthy discussion on this very important subject. We are committed to an open dialog on this topic and hope to keep the conversation moving forward.

Julie Miller more than 2 years ago

Charging by Sheet Size

Makes a ton of business sense, We've seen it recently on a public bid so even the government gets it.

John Lipari more than 2 years ago

Charge by sheet size

We have been charging by sheet size for about 4 years now. Will never go back to sq ft.

Todd Lester more than 2 years ago

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