Onlineprinters snaps up Solopress

Southend-based online commercial printer Solopress has been bought by German online trade and B2B print firm, Onlineprinters.

The value of the deal, which was completed on Friday (10 March), has not been disclosed.

Award-winning, 225-staff Solopress, which specialises in next-day delivery work, will retain its name and co-founders Aron Priest and Andy Smith will continue to lead the company in their roles as managing directors of the business.

The fast-growing business posted sales up 31.6% to £20.9m last year, and made an operating margin of 6.4%. 

“It’s the perfect fit for a UK and European bridge. Solopress is one of the leading online printing firms in the UK and we’ve have both found the perfect partner to go forward and build our brands both in Europe and the UK,” said Priest.

“The printing industry is getting quite claustrophobic and we’ve stepped out of the normal line and I think this is an amazing move that secures our staff, the future of the company and will keep us growing for many more years to come.”

Founded in 2004, Solopress offers a wide range of business products such as business cards, leaflets, brochures, posters and banners and ships over 85% of its print jobs within 24-hours of being ordered, according to the firm. It produced more than 300,000 online orders last year, hitting 1,000,000 orders in October.

The acquisition is Onlineprinters’ first and was hinted at in September last year after private equity firm TA Associates Management sold its majority stake in the business to Bregal Unternehmerkapital, the Munich-based private equity arm of family owned Cofra Holding, along with venture capitalist group Project A and company founder Walter Meyer.

“We acquired Solopress because it is well positioned and profitable and its founders have brought it to this point so these strengths have to be preserved as does the brand,” said Onlineprinters chief executive Michael Fries.

“It is a very well-known brand and we want to help them to continue progress, as they have done so far, on a largely independent path." Fries added that he expected the growth of the workforce to continue as well. 

Onlineprinters was founded as commercial printer in 1984 and entered the e-commerce market in 2004. It employs a 650-strong workforce and sells to more than 600,000 customers across 30 European countries through its 16 webshops.

Fries said the acquisition placed Onlineprinters in the top five online print providers in Europe.

“We think the UK market is very interesting because it's one of the big European printing markets. We believe the transition to online printing is still in a relatively early stage and so it has huge potential and Solopress is an excellent company with a leading position in that market. It also fits well culturally with Onlineprinters - we’ve known the founders for quite some time and we see this as an opportunity to create something bigger with them,” he added.

Fries said that while Solopress offered expertise in fast-turnaround work, which Onlineprinters does not, the synergies between the two firms meant both could benefit from new services.

“Solopress are experts at speed and next-day delivery and we think they can also develop in areas that are more towards the central areas of Onlineprinters as well, with the production of products that take longer lead times,” he said.

Fries added that the company had no plan to acquire any other businesses currently.

"We aren’t focused on acquisitions. It was an opportunity that fitted well personally and strategically. This was just about how well Solopress fits into the whole picture of Onlineprinters,” he said.