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Fulfilment V’s Printing On Demand

As I am currently exploring stepping over from ‘print on demand’ to fulfilment services, I thought I would talk about this topic and explain what I have learnt so far.

Printing to order

Over the past 18 months I have worked with a print-on-demand method where greeting cards and art prints etc with no finishes are printed to order. I have a minimum of stock held at my printer’s warehouse. Stock is only held of greeting card designs which contain a finish, ie: foils, flitter, die-cut etc. These are held in up to 100 units per design. So when a customer’s order comes in, the job is printed and packed and dispatched. Generally with a turn-around of 5-12 working days. The benefit of this system, is as you are small, the risk is low. You can test out your market and if a range of designs doesn’t hit the mark and is a slow seller you can remove it from your offering with little expense. The downside is you are stuck with the pricing structure of your printer. The shipping charges are higher at £10 net, but you have no % pcm to pay off your invoices, but you do pay a storage fee of £10 net, plus if using an online ordering system costs are £9.99 net approx.


What is fulfilment? This is a business which has a large warehouse and they pick, pack, dispatch out your orders same day or next day. At the end of each month you are charged a % of your invoices which have gone out.

What do you get for your money?

  • Fulfilment Warehouses I have found charge anything from 4%-10% of your monthly Net invoices which they service from your stock to your customer. Orders come in, get picked from your shelves, and dispatched out within 6-12 hours Some of the bigger fulfilment centres I have found, wont even look at small publishers as the orders are too small and not worth their time.
  • They offer a range of services from the packing of raw stock, hand finishing, and labelling of individual packs and boxes.
  • Pricing to pack your cards into cellos with envelope can vary; for example,£18 – £30 for packing 1,000 cards including VAT.
  • Hand finishing is often priced per job. Some charge nothing to pack smaller orders of between 10-12 packs of 6 cards.
  • Orders are dispatched via courier and royal mail services. Orders placed before 12 pm will be sent out the same day.
  • Stock is securely stored and orders will be efficiently fulfilled.
  • Generally you receive a stock check daily of comings-in and goings-out via shared google docs/spreadsheets. With a yearly stock check where orders are held for the day to ensure a complete check.
  • Packing materials are included in the % price; jiffy bags, bubble wrap, tape etc although some can charge 45p per box, or the price for speciality boxes if they need to be ordered in specific to your needs.
  • To sort returns, labelling and stickering or any work which is over and above the contract will be charged at around £10.50 per hour.
  • Deliveries in the UK via next day courier is charged at rates from £4.50-£6.50 plus VAT
  • Full pallet delivery is charged at £54 plus VAT but some companies offer free pallet collection of your current stock to move over to them.
  • Royal Mail costs are £3.22 for a small parcel. Medium parcels are £5.25.
  • Shipping out of the UK will be quoted for on individual basis.
  • Orders are in customers shops faster, which will increase re-ordering and customer confidence.
  • Initial set up of your stock ready for servicing orders can be from 2-5 days depending on company.

Top tips

  • Get a copy of the fulfilment centres Terms & Conditions to ensure you are aware of everything.
  • Do up your monthly invoices net value and factor in the fulfilment % charges, and deduct any savings of packing of cards, dispatch prices and of course the option of cheaper bulk printing. Give a month’s set of sales figures and detail of product which went out in the month, and ask the fulfilment company to give you a set of example charges for that period so you are clear on what your month charge will be.
  • Make sure you check things like: If orders fall under £100 they may attract an extra delivery charge, and also do they expect a turnover through them of around £XXXXXX per year.
  • Be aware that if you’re not turning over enough annual business they can slacken their service to you and eventually force you out through poor service to make space for a better performing customer.
  • If you can do view the warehouse, or be aware that your stock could be housed in damp horrid conditions and will affect your precious stock.

What did I do this week?

  • Placed new customer orders.
  • Sketching new illustrations for a collection to launch at Spring Fair in Feb 2019.
  • Sorting missing product, which hasn’t been found so had re-ordered to go out to the customer.
  • Deciding on fulfilment options.
  • Chasing late payers.
  • Ordered replenishment stock of stickers.
  • Paid bills.
  • Statements to Sales Agents.

Thx for reading and HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!!!