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Wallace Computer Services, Inc. Business Information, Profile, and History

2275 Cabot Drive
Lisle, Illinois 60532-3630

Company Perspectives:

The Company is recognized as a leading provider of supplies and print management services to Fortune 2000 customers. The Company is evolving to manage all the printing needs of large organizations. Products include commercial printing, business forms, labels, direct response printing and office products. The Company's strategy is to utilize its information management and distribution systems to offer customers a solutions-based approach to increasing efficiencies and reducing costs.

History of Wallace Computer Services, Inc.

Wallace Computer Services, Inc. is a commercial printer and printer of business forms and labels with a history dating back to 1908. In addition, the company offers print management services to its corporate customers through its Total Print Management (TPM) program. Wallace operates more than 40 manufacturing facilities, nine distribution and warehousing hubs, and 150 sales locations. It has won numerous awards for excellence, both from customers such as American Airlines, Federal Express, and Sears, Roebuck & Co., and from industry associations such as Printing Industries of America and the National Association for Printing Leadership, among others.

Operating As a Private Company: 1908--60

In 1908 the company was established as an Illinois commercial printer under the name Wallace Press, Inc. Its founder, Walter Franklin Wallace, Sr., was born in Chicago in 1881. He graduated from Yale University in 1903 and became a trade publication editor. Around this time he inherited a farm in suburban Chicago. In 1908 he sold the farm to buy a printing press and started Wallace Press, Inc. as a one-person commercial printer. One of his first customers was Sears, Roebuck & Co., for which he printed catalogs and manuals. By 1923 sales surpassed $1 million. In 1928 the company moved to a larger facility in downtown Chicago. Wallace received its first order for a business form in 1930. For the next several decades Wallace operated as a printer of business forms and labels as well as a commercial printer of brochures, catalogs, and other materials for business.

In 1952 the founder's son, Walter F. 'Bob' Wallace, Jr., took over as president of the company. He had attended Northwestern University and learned the printing business as a plant worker. In 1957 the company expanded and opened a second manufacturing location in Clinton, Illinois. The plant's first order was shipped in early 1958, and overall the company's sales reached more than $12 million.

Period of Expansion: 1960s--70s

In 1960 Wallace created a direct sales force to service forms users in all parts of the United States. In 1961 Wallace became a publicly held company, with its shares trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The company was reorganized in June 1963 as Wallace Business Forms, Inc., a Delaware corporation.

In 1966 Wallace expanded through acquisitions in the East and Southeast. It began construction of a new corporate headquarters and press division in Hillsdale, Illinois. The company also expanded into Virginia with its new plant in Luray. The plant broke even in its first year of operation.

In 1978 Wallace initiated a new strategy to become a single-source supplier and distributor of business forms, labels, and commercial and direct response printing. The company began to implement an aggressive acquisitions strategy that continued through the end of the century.

New Name Better Reflection of Company's Business: 1980s

In 1981 the company changed its name to Wallace Computer Services, Inc., to better reflect the wide range of products it sold to computer users, especially forms and labels. Toward the end of 1985 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began requiring that drums of motor oil and other hazardous chemicals be specially labeled. This created a boon for label printers such as Wallace, which developed Printware, a computer program to generate labels on a personal computer. Printware saved customers the trouble of stocking large quantities of labels that would have to be discarded whenever a formula changed. With Printware, they could create a generic label, then print and create label variations as needed.

At the end of the 1980s, Wallace was the fifth largest producer of business forms in the United States. It had 27 consecutive years of increased sales and earnings and raised its dividend every year since 1973.

Innovations and Acquisitions Fueling Growth: 1990s

In 1990 Wallace completed a 300,000-square-foot distribution center in St. Charles, Illinois. It was the central point for ordering all stock items from Wallace. Wallace's revenues for fiscal 1991 ending July 31 were hurt by a nationwide recession that affected the business forms industry. In 1992 Wallace introduced W.I.N., the Wallace Information Network, which was the first Windows-based information management system in the printing industry. During the coming decade this system would attract customers and allow Wallace to expand into print management services for its customers.

In 1995 Wallace entered into an alliance with distributor United Stationers to improve its position in the contract stationers market, selling office supplies wholesale to large companies. It planned to use a variation of W.I.N. to offer one-stop shopping for office supplies. That same year Wallace also acquired Forms Engineering, a Los Angeles-based direct mail printer with about $38 million in annual sales, to complement its own direct mail division, Colorforms.

Also in 1995 rival Canadian printer Moore Corp. launched a $1.3 billion hostile takeover bid for Wallace. Based on an analysis by investment banker Goldman, Sachs & Co., Wallace rejected the bid. Later, minority shareholder Wyser-Pratte, a New York arbitrage firm, challenged Goldman's valuation of the company, claiming that Goldman inflated Wallace's value by as much as 18 percent. Wyser-Pratte owned about 2.7 percent of Wallace's stock.

Following Moore's announced bid, Wallace's stock rose 33 percent. Wallace subsequently rejected a second, higher bid from Moore, which was the largest business forms printer in North America. Moore was losing U.S. market share to Wallace, in part because of Wallace's innovative W.I.N. system, which allowed customers to design and produce standard business documents, labels, and other forms on the computer, as well as manage inventory for both paper and electronic forms. Wallace would often run the systems onsite for its customers. Although Moore had a similar technology, Wallace's was more advanced. For fiscal 1995 ending July 31, Wallace's revenues were $713 million, compared with Moore's revenues of $2.6 billion. Moore withdrew its bid for Wallace at the end of 1995.

Responding to increased growth, Wallace constructed a new 100,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in Lisle, Illinois, in 1996. During the year Wallace acquired Post Printing Inc., of West Bend, Wisconsin, which had about 80 employees and annual revenues around $8 million. For fiscal 1996, Wallace reported sales of $862.3 million, an increase of 21 percent over 1995. Earnings rose 32 percent to $73 million. Wallace's growth came at a time when the business forms printing industry was shrinking at the rate of about two percent a year; it was attributed in part to the success of the Wallace Information Network (W.I.N.). Newly acquired customers included large firms such as BankAmerica Corp. and Rubbermaid Inc. During the year Wallace expanded its capacity at existing plants. It opened a new distribution center in Los Angeles, added 100,000 square feet to a plant in Georgia, and increased its Tennessee plant by 75,000 square feet.

Wallace's strategy for growth was to become a business partner to its customers, not just a vendor. Among its alliances and partnerships, Wallace provided American Express Travel Management Services with a cost-effective solution to automate the travel expense reporting process. American Express characterized the partnership as 'a breakthrough in the development of electronic form applications.' Wallace considered itself part of a network of relationships and alliances, many of which were based on five-year contracts. Wallace's emphasis had evolved from a pure product orientation to more of a service orientation. It had moved into forms management to manage the whole process of storage, distribution, and procurement. In many cases Wallace employees would run that business segment onsite at its customer's location. The W.I.N. system gave Wallace's customers access to the company's internal operating systems, so customers could track inventory and orders. At the same time Wallace was building closer relationships with its own suppliers, in some cases outsourcing some aspects of its manufacturing. In the contract stationers market, Wallace's alliance with United Stationers allowed it to combine product categories and offer customers a broader range of office supplies.

With the acquisition of Graphic Industries, Inc. in 1997 and the creation of the Wallace Integrated Graphics commercial press group, Wallace became one of the largest printers in North America. Graphic Industries owned the largest network of sheet-fed commercial printing plants in the United States. The Atlanta-based company focused on high-quality, short-to-medium run collateral and high color marketing materials and annual reports for Fortune 2000 customers. It had 20 manufacturing plants and $450 million in annual sales. The acquisition reduced Wallace's reliance on business forms, which accounted for 34 percent of Wallace's revenues before the acquisition and would contribute only 22 percent of Wallace's revenues after the combination. Overall, the $8 billion business forms industry was shrinking nearly four percent annually as companies replaced many forms applications with electronic systems. The $24 billion commercial printing market, on the other hand, was growing at two to three percent a year.

Wallace initially offered $18.50 a share for Graphic Industries, or about $260 million, in September 1997. When another firm, envelope maker Mail-Well Inc., said it was prepared to offer $20 a share or more, Wallace raised its bid to $21.75 a share, or about $438 million in all, including the assumption of $130 million of Graphic Industries' debt.

For fiscal 1997 ending July 31, Wallace reported a five percent increase in revenues to $906.3 million, although sales on a unit basis increased 12 percent. Earnings increased 11 percent to $81.3 million. In addition to the Graphic Industries acquisition, Wallace purchased Moran Printing Co. of Orlando, Florida, during the year. It also opened a label design center to assist customers in creating labels on demand with its Printware software package.

For fiscal 1998 ending July 31, sales surpassed $1 billion for the first time, increasing 50 percent to $1.36 billion due in large part to the acquisition of Graphic Industries. Net income, however, declined nine percent to $74.2 million. During the year Wallace entered into a joint marketing arrangement with Boise Cascade Office Products (BCOP), a subsidiary of Boise Cascade Corporation. Known as the BW Single Source Program, the agreement allowed each company to introduce the other company to its top 200 customers and allowed each company to market its products and services to those customers. Under the agreement, Wallace would provide custom printed products and central management services, while BCOP would supply stock office products and related supplies. In addition, both companies would provide customers with value-added services. In December 1998 Wallace sold its contract stationers business, Visible Computer Supply, to BCOP to increase the two companies' joint marketing efforts.

It was in 1998 that Wallace created a new service called Total Print Management (TPM). Based on Wallace's enterprise-wide information system W.I.N., TPM provided greater control and efficiencies for buyers of commercial printing. This and other Wallace services were highly dependent on the company's Wallace Information Network (W.I.N.), which was introduced in 1992. The W.I.N. system included a suite of management tools applicable to customer processes, including inventory management, end-user ordering, version control, tracking, and follow-up. Nearly 500 Wallace customers were using the W.I.N. system by mid-1999.

In June 1998 Wallace acquired Good Decal Co., an Englewood, Colorado-based maker of pressure sensitive labels, decals, and screen printed graphic overlays, for $13.3 million. In February 1999 it sold Mercury Printing of Memphis, Tennessee, which was part of the Graphic Industries acquisition, for $7 million. Mercury's and Visible Computer Supply's product lines were not compatible with Wallace's strategic direction.

In May 1999 Wallace acquired Commercial Press, Inc., a San Diego-based commercial printer, for about $25 million. The acquisition brought Wallace up to 27 commercial print facilities across the United States. The same month Wallace acquired Denver Graphic, Inc., a small prime label company, for about $3 million. The acquisitions were part of Wallace's strategy to expand its commercial printing business.

At the beginning of 2000 CEO Robert Cronin retired. President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Duffield succeeded him as interim CEO. Duffield had served as president and COO of Wallace since August 1998, when CEO Cronin succeeded retiring Theodore Dimitriou as chairman of the company.

In February 2000 Wallace acquired Metro Printing, Inc., a commercial printer serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota market. The company had 125 employees and annual sales of $12 million. The acquisition was Wallace's 24th purchase of high-quality commercial printers that were being networked by Wallace as part of its Total Print Management (TPM) program. For fiscal 1999, TPM generated about 40 percent of Wallace's revenues, or more than $600 million.

Also in February Wallace announced several cost-cutting measures in an effort to improve earnings and cash flow. It closed unprofitable printing plants in Cleveland, Tampa, and Miami and began phasing out a multiple-use plant in Lebanon, Kentucky. In addition, about 300 jobs were eliminated, and certain underutilized assets were written off.

In June 2000 Wallace was ranked 29th in American Printers' annual list of the 'Top 50 Fastest Growing Printers.' It was the second consecutive year that Wallace appeared on the list. The company's sales had grown nearly 70 percent from 1997 to 1999, due in large part to its acquisition strategy. Since acquiring Graphic Industries in 1997, Wallace had expanded its commercial printing capabilities by acquiring commercial printers, which were organized under the company's Integrated Graphics division, to take advantage of the growth in the commercial printing market. At the same time, Wallace continued to decrease its reliance on printing business forms and labels, which were organized under the Forms and Labels division.

Principal Divisions: Integrated Graphics; Forms and Labels.

Principal Competitors: Moore Corp. Ltd. (Canada); Quebecor Inc. (Canada); R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co.; Consolidated Graphics Inc.


  • Key Dates:

  • 1908: Company is established as an Illinois commercial printer under the name Wallace Press, Inc.
  • 1923: Sales surpass $1 million for the first time.
  • 1930: Wallace receives its first order for a business form.
  • 1960: Wallace creates a national direct sales force.
  • 1961: Wallace becomes a publicly held company on the New York Stock Exchange.
  • 1963: Company is reorganized as Wallace Business Forms, Inc.
  • 1981: Company changes its name to Wallace Computer Services, Inc.
  • 1992: Wallace introduces the Wallace Information Network (W.I.N.), the first Windows-based information management system in the printing industry.
  • 1995: Wallace rejects a hostile takeover bid from rival Canadian printer Moore Corporation Ltd.
  • 1997: Wallace acquires Graphics Industries, Inc.
  • 1998: Sales surpass $1 billion for the first time; company introduces Total Print Management service.

Additional topics

Company HistorySoftware & Computer Systems

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