2022 Top 100 Small Commercial Printers

Each year, WhatTheyThink | Printing News invites small commercial print business owners to participate in our Top 100 Shops Survey. The key word is “small.” The upper limit for participation at $25 million in annual revenues.

June 6, 2022
396582076Revenues Chart

Each year, WhatTheyThink | Printing News invites small commercial print business owners to participate in our Top 100 Shops Survey. The key word is “small.” The upper limit for participation at $25 million in annual revenues.        

Our Top Shop this year came in at $23.90 million. This year’s winner was also last year’s winner, when they came in at $21.32 million. Given their trajectory, it’s possible they won’t qualify next year—our loss is their gain. In 2021, the shops included in our Top 100 list accounted for just under half a billion dollars in revenue—$492,162,223, representing a 6% increase from 2020. In the year of Our Pandemic 2020, the Top Shops saw a 16% decline from 2019, so 2021 was very much a rebuilding year.

If we look at revenues for our top shops, 58% saw a 10%+ increase in revenues in 2021 from 2020, while 11% said 2021 saw a 6–10% increase over 2020 and a further 11% saw a 1–5% increase in revenues in 2021. Only 15% reported any decrease in revenues in 2021—a welcome change from 2020 when the majority of shops reported a decrease in revenues. (We won’t adjust for inflation.) As for their expectations for 2022, hope springs eternal: no one is expecting revenues to decrease, nearly two-thirds (62%) are expecting revenues to increase more than 10%, and 22% are expecting revenues to increase between 6% and 10%. In 2020, the dominant issue was obviously surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, and the theme of last year’s Top Shops survey was the recovery. This year, the theme appears to be “generally back to normal.” 

Our survey was conducted from March to May of this year, and the responses reflect an industry turning to new challenges—namely, getting supplies (paper especially), the cost of those supplies (i.e., inflation), and finding employees. Although  COVID is not over—not by a longshot—our Top Shops have more pressing issues. 


If you look at our list of Top Shops, you’ll notice a large number are franchises—lots of Allegras, AlphaGraphics, Sir Speedys and PIPs. If you read our “Franchise Review” in the April 2022 issue, you know that franchises were well-positioned to fare better than average during the pandemic, given the support that a franchise network can provide, and the franchises came out of the pandemic stronger than ever. It also has to be said that individual franchisees were encouraged by the Mother Ship to respond to our survey, whilst indie print businesses were a lot more difficult to wrangle. While we’d like to get a lot more independent printer participation, we unfortunately don’t have subpoena power.

The oldest company in our in our Top 100 this year is Hagerstown, Md.’s HBP, founded in 1903 (spoiler alert: more about them later). The newest company is AlphaGraphics Suwanee (Ga.), founded in 2019. The median founding date for all companies in the Top 100 was 1989. The majority of our respondents have one location, but at the high end, Salem Printing & Blueprint, Inc. in Salem, Ore., reported 21 locations. In the Top 10, 1.9 locations is the average (not that anyone has .9 of a location—although, these days, they very well may), and AlphaGraphics Idaho Falls, Ida., has 10 locations, having added two since last year. In terms of employees, the average number of full-time and part-time employees in the Top 100 is 28.2; our Top Shop this year (Strategic Factory) tops the list at 146. 


Print businesses are becoming nothing if not more diverse in the kinds of applications they produce. When we look at applications as a percentage of revenue, on average, color digital printing/copying accounted for, on average, 20% (it was 22% last year), followed by wide-format printing (17%, unchanged from last year). Four-color process (i.e., offset) accounts for 10% of revenues on average. A smattering of other applications fills out Top Shops’ billings. When we look at the specific kinds of things shops produce, we find a wide range of print products, from direct mail (produced by 93% of our Top Shops) and envelopes (90%), to wide-format printing (89%), mailing (87%), and binding and finishing (86%). Even 63% of our Top Shops did some kind of vehicle graphics—although a lot of these items may not account for an overwhelming percentage of overall revenues, they are still important parts of the overall product mix. And none of this is to say that demand for these items will remain static; in five years—or even next year—different products may take up more or less of a percentage of overall revenues. In a dynamic print market, each year’s survey can only ever be a snapshot of a brief moment in time. 

Top Challenges

The industry has decidedly moved on from the COVID-related challenges we tracked in 2020. This year’s top challenges—and none will surprise you in the slightest—are “consumables and supplies prices,” selected by 67% of our Top Shops, and “finding qualified production personnel” (54%). (Sales personnel are a little easier to find—only 43% of Top Shops were challenged by finding them.) “National economic conditions” was selected by 50% of our Top Shops, and “local economic conditions” by 29%—although you would think the latter would be more important than the former. Related to the number one challenge, “pricing” is down at 36%—but that’s up from 21% last year.  We note that “regaining business lost to COVID-19” is down to 41%—still significant, but a far cry from 76% in last year’s Top Shops survey. Other production issues like increasing productivity and managing automation are also top-of-mind issues. 

Top Opportunities

Although the challenges suggest an industry that has moved on from COVID, the opportunities describe one that is still dealing with the pandemic (as indeed we all still are, whether we want to admit it or not). “Improving economic conditions” is still the number-one “opportunity,” but at 54% of Top Shops, is down from 71% last year—in large part because the economy is actually doing extremely well. “Customers outsourcing more work to us”—a top Before Times opportunity—is this year tied with “national recovery from COVID-19” at 41%. “Hiring new salespeople”—another old favorite—is at 39%, unchanged from last year. “Automating production” is up 10 percentage points to 40%—it looks like shops are getting serious about pursuing automation, although what “automation” specifically means remains unclear.  A key to survival for many—be they Top or other shops—has been the diversity of product and service offerings. That was true before the pandemic was hammered home in 2020, and will remain true long after the pandemic is just a distant memory. 

Planned Investments

Our Holy Trinity of annual surveys—Business Outlook, Franchise Review, and Top 100—have all marched very much in lockstep pre- and during-pandemic, but this is the first survey that breaks ranks with some movement at the top of the Planned Investment list. For a few years, “we have no planned investments” has topped this list, but that it’s down to 18% breaks with the usual trend. Our top investment category is the ever-popular “finishing/bindery equipment for digital production” at 30% of Top Shops, ticking up one percentage point from last year. “Workflow automation software” is up from 18% to 20%—an all-time high for this investment category, suggesting perhaps that the Top Shops are serious about automation. “Additional space/new location is down one point to 18%, but last year we remarked that, at 19%, it was abnormally high. It’s possible work-from-home has led shops/plants to downsize—or maybe acquiring new capabilities has led them to upsize. That would be a good thing to qualify when we conduct our fall Business Outlook survey. 

Moving On

With a few already noted exceptions, our three recent industry surveys—Fall Business Outlook, Franchise Review and Top 100—have tended to mutually validate each other. We would expect the Top 100 to show some differences, given that it is a snapshot of the “best of the best” rather than a broad industry cross-section. What these surveys confirm is that we are all wrestling with the same issues—but how they deal with them is the true measure of their success.

This Year’s Winners

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Top 100! Three of the Top Six were in our Top Six last year. Our six Top Shops (by 2020 sales) this year are: Strategic Factory, Owings Mills, Md. —$23,901,266 HBP, Inc., Hagerstown, Md. —$22,100,000 Yunker Industries, Elkhorn, Wis. —$22,000,000 Allen Printing Company, Nashville, Tenn. —$19,950,000 Allegra Asheville, Asheville, N.C. —$18,642,508 Cedar Graphics, Hiawatha, Ia. —$17,000,000

#1 Strategic Factory Strategic Factory (https://strategicfactory.com) was founded in 1999 by Keith Miller as a two-person quick print franchise but has grown to a 40,000-square-foot production facility with nearly 130 employees. The company offers commercial printing, as well as signage, vehicle graphics, branded apparel and promotional items, and a full range of creative and design services. This is the second win in a row for Strategic Factory, and their $23,901,266 sales in 2022 represents a 12% increase from last year. During 2021, they underwent a rebrand and enhanced customer communications, citing as top opportunities for 2022 “helping customers integrate print and non-print marketing campaigns” and “using marketing automation for our business (like HubSpot, Eloqua, Marketo).” They are looking at expanding into packaging, as well as continuing to automate production. 

#2 HBP, Inc. Founded in 1903, HBP (hbp.com) is one of the oldest companies in this year’s Top 100 and the oldest in the Top 10. HBP has two locations—Hagerstown, Md., and Falls Church, Va.—and 151 employees. Revenues for 2021 were $22,100,000, and while HBP didn’t participate in last year’s Top Shops survey, they were our #3 Top Shop in 2020. A lot of HBP’s work is with associations, which involves trade shows and other events, which came to a standstill in 2020 and much of 2021. For 2022, HBP is looking to acquire another company and continue the expansion of its digital capabilities, which had started back in the Before Times,  by investing in high-speed production  inkjet equipment. 

#3 Yunker Industries Yunker Industries (www.yunker.com) is the third oldest company in our Top 10, founded as Yunker Sign & Display in 1948 by Warren and Mary Helen Yunker, and is headed today by Kari Yunker. Initially a sign shop, the company added more and more retailers to its client base and began producing permanent and semi-permanent graphics, branding elements and display fixtures, and wayfinding signage. Today, Yunker is a retail marketing services organization, handling all aspects of wide-format and signage, prototyping, design, fulfillment and installation. Yunker’s sales for 2021 came in at $22,000,000, up from $19,500,000 in 2020, which had put them at #2 on our Top 100 list last year. The company has one location (Elkhorn, Wis.) and 83 full-time employees. Yunker is looking to continue to grow in 2022 by adding digital printing equipment and expanding their textile/fabric printing capabilities.

 #4 Allen Printing Company Returning to the Top Five this year—they were number six last year—is Allen Printing Company (www.allenprinting.com), which is the second oldest company in our Top 10 having been founded in Nashville in 1931. Being able to jump on new opportunities as they present themselves has been a key ingredient in Allen Printing’s success, even before the pandemic, but especially during. Preparing for anticipated problems like paper shortages helped in 2021. Sales in 2021 came in at $19,950,000—an increase of 33% from 2020 sales. “2021 was a really weird year,” said President Paul Heffington. “Sales seemed to be there because of the economic recovery from the previous year’s setback, but it seemed like every time you turned around there was a new hurdle to jump. Mainly inflation and paper shortages.”  One reason they grew so much last year was that they bought as much paper as they could. “Even though this shortage sucks, it did not blindside us.” Massive price increases did catch them a little off guard. “Not that we weren’t expecting prices to go up, we just weren’t expecting the prices to almost double in a 12-month period,” Heffington added. The second secret to their success was increased pricing, which thus increased sales. “To try and continue this success and growth into 2022 and beyond, we will continue to bend over backwards to provide that awesome service in an atmosphere that has the whole industry frustrated.At some point, you have to believe that things will get back to some semblance of normalcy.

“#5 Allegra Asheville (N.C.)Returning to the Top Five for the second year in a row is Allegra Asheville (www.AllegraAsheville.com). Allegra Asheville was founded in 1998 as Mail Management Services and became an Allegra franchise in 2015. Its client base runs the gamut of businesses in the Asheville area. Sales in 2021 came in at $18,642,508, a 15% increase from 2020. “The Team at Allegra Asheville had a very successful 2021,” said Owner and President Dave Campbell. “In fact, it was the best year in the 24-year company history. We have a very motivated, flexible and highly competent group that seeks challenges on a daily basis that make us better. We have had a fun year that has been very rewarding and expect it to continue into 2022.” Allegra Asheville saw an uptick in direct mail production in 2021. “That corresponds to growth in our printing, data services, and finishing departments,” added Campbell. “We handled the increased volume very easily and also had the support of additional Allegras within the network to assist client needs—kudos to them.“2022 is shaping up to be a solid year for us from a sales perspective. We have already enhanced our production capacity and are landing additional work that fits us best. We hope the entire industry has shaken off the pandemic doldrums and are having better business in 2022.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey, and congratulations to this year’s Top Shops!