Billion-Dollar UK Printer Targets US DMers

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NEW YORK - Polestar, a billion-dollar British printing company with premier US clients like Viking, Toys "R" Us, JCPenney and Lands' End, is looking for more US catalogers it can take to Europe.


The company has opened a US office here and is actively searching for American clients.


Polestar was formed last June through the merger of the British Printing Corp. and Watmoughs Holding, two of the largest UK printers. Both firms had facilities throughout the UK but with little geographic overlap. The new combine has three printing operations in Spain and two in Hungary, allowing what creative services director Tim Smith called "a three-cornered" approach to Europe.


"We're a European company that understands Europe and the cultural differences involved," he said. "We know how to get paper across European borders. People who print with us can be sure that their catalogs will hit on the date certain."


Like large printing companies in the US, Polestar does not limit its services to printing catalogs and magazines on its 90 presses and 60 binding lines in three countries.


"We consider ourselves the bridge between our customers and the markets they serve," said CEO Tony Rudstone. "We offer a high quality Europewide manufacturing and distribution service, which can be accessed from anywhere in the world."


In the US, the company counts on good word-of-mouth from its American clients. "We have good guys in the US who can validate our European services," Smith said.


"We are part of Viking's success in Europe," US sales manager Nick White added, "but we have also learned a lot from them - on how you start a successful distribution campaign, for example."


The company also relies on its heavyweight position in the UK market, where it prints eight of the 10 top consumer magazines as well as Cosmopolitan, Reader's Digest and Condé Nast Traveler.


Getting the word out to US companies about its offerings is one result of the merger. "In the past," Smith explained, "our press capacity was 84 percent filled so we didn't always have that much extra capacity to sell."


That is changing as Polestar acquires new presses and expands into other parts of Europe. Smith said the company was considering entering two new countries but declined to name them. Speculation centers on Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe with no decision yet on starting new businesses on the continent or acquiring existing ones.


Equally important in Polestar's US push is the emergence of what Smith called "Euroland" - the 11 nations that have adopted the euro as a common currency - as well as the UK and four Middle European candidates - Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovenia.


"We are going to be trading across Euroland in euros," he said, "and that includes the UK, as well, of course, as denominating prices in local currencies."
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