Bluetree trebles building size after online success

Sarah Cosgrove
Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Design and print company Bluetree has trebled its factory size after expanding rapidly through its trade web-to-print operation, Route One.

Bluetree new factory
Bluetree new factory

The Rotherham, South Yorkshire company moved from its 3,344sqm home of 20 years to a 9,290sqm site two miles up the road at the end of last month, with funding from Barclays and the Sheffield City Region Growth Fund Programme.

The company has bought a new HP Scitex 11000, a Heidelberg eight-colour B1 perfector, a Muller Martini bookletmaker and finishing equipment for the new site, in Manvers.

It was already running a B2 Heidelberg XL and a B2 Komori LS429 plus coater, which moved with the company.

Bluetree Design and Print started as a POS printer, and its main brand is still focused on wide-format POS work and large campaigns for retailers. The company has two other web-to-print brands: B2C arm Instantprint and trade operation Route One Print, which started off selling print on eBay in 2012.

Route One channel manager Jack Wilmott said: “We brought web channels into the operation. That’s been a major driver. We’ve invested heavily in the website and there’s been a rate of growth to the point where we had to upscale. We are looking at a 15%-20% growth on the previous month.”

He said the company had always wanted to upgrade to a B1 perfector - "an incredible piece of equipment" - but only now had the space and capacity to justify it. 

"We’re not only impressed with the standard of work it produces, we’re also excited about its makeready speeds, which will allow us to get the work from pre-press to our finishing department a lot quicker. This ultimately means a faster turnaround for our customers, but without sacrificing the quality," he said.

Route One offers digital, litho and wide-format print from stickers to exhibition banners and has a range of clients from other printers and copy shops to agencies or freelance designers, focusing on small to medium-sized print resellers. It offers unbranded sample packs and catalogues as well as stock images for clients’ websites and delivers the finished product under white labels to their destination.

Wilmott said that Route One had been so successful because its operating system, called ‘Bob’ by the company, checks proofs for image resolution, RGB colour use, bleed, flattening and transparency “in about a minute”.

‘Bob’ then sends a range of proofs back to the client, with Pantone and other suggestions for approval, rather than the client waiting for a physical proof or leaving it to Bluetree to decide what is best.

“They can be at peace knowing how their artwork is going to print,” Wilmott said.

Wilmott said the success of the 165-staff business success was down to “a range of things across the board” but customer service was very important. It aims to respond to all emails within one hour, and says it takes an average of eight second to answer the phone.

“Our company is very forward thinking. With an online company there’s a risk you have a lack of human interaction but we like to think that our service element and the team here are very proactive. You can go online to get cost-effective print but we offer the same service as if you’re doing business offline.”

Blueetree made a £9m-turnover in its latest available accounts to 30 April 2014, citing a 67% year-on-year growth. According to the company, its youngest but fastest-growing division, Route One Print is forecast to turn over £24m this year. In the past two years, the company has created 100 jobs, and it plans to create another 60 in the coming months.

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