Twelve percent more sales, nine percent rise in gross profit: figures that many a print service provider could only dream of. Yet even though the top dog in online printing is reporting new record figures both in the fourth quarter and for the 2022 financial year as a whole (July 2021 to June 2022), Cimpress is not starting its new financial year with a “business as usual” attitude. On the contrary. The annual report contains several changes that will influence the business of the online print giant in the future.
But let’s take it one step at a time. First, we need to look at the figures, which show growth across all business units. Compared to the previous year, the Group’s total sales increased by twelve percent to 2.88 billion US dollars, while gross profit (not to be confused with EBITDA) rose by nine percent to around 1.395 billion US dollars. This is the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic that both figures are not only back at, but above, pre-Corona levels from fiscal year 2019 (Adjusted EBITDA, incidentally, was a different story, coming in significantly lower than the previous year at $281.1 million, but more on that later in the text).
“Our ‘Upload & Print’ business, National Pen, BuildASign and Printi are generating similar or higher revenues and profits than pre-pandemic levels despite the ongoing pandemic last year, supply chain disruptions and cost increases,” Cimpress CEO Robert Keane noted with appropriate satisfaction in his letter to investors.
By contrast, the situation in the Group’s largest business unit, Vista, is more sober. This is because: “Several factors severely impacted Vista’s profitability in fiscal 2022: sales growth that was not as strong as in other Cimpress business units, cost inflation that could not be offset by price increases, […] and long-term investments,” it says, among other things.
Growth falls short of expectations despite sales peak
This is because the Vista business unit, which was still called Vistaprint in last year’s annual report and which has probably seen the most activity as of late, continues to generate the lion’s share of Cimpress’ total sales. After the two pandemic years, Vista’s total revenue of $1.515 billion was back at pre-Corona levels, or even just above the figure for fiscal 2019. However, growth of six percent (five percent adjusted for currency effects) compared with the same period of the previous year fell short of expectations. Accordingly, the summary of Robert Keane was also: “Vista’s financial results fell far short of what we believe is their potential,” it says in his letter to investors.
This was due – among other things – to “increased strategic investments […] in Vista’s transformation,” which “weighed heavily on near-term profits,” as well as cost inflation, which could not be offset by the growth in prices, especially in the second half of the fiscal year.
Transformation to full design and marketing partner
Speaking of transformation, Cimpress says it has been working on Vista’s transformation and strategic realignment for more than three years. For example, the company is increasingly saying goodbye to the business with heavily discounted and simple marketing products or clients that generate losses. In the future, the focus will instead be on establishing itself as a fully comprehensive and competent design and marketing partner for small businesses, offering not only a broader product range but also more extensive design options and an improved user experience.
With this in mind, in addition to the move to a new technology platform, which is expected to be finalized before the end of August, the acquisitions of Crello (now VistaCreate) and the image database Depositphotos also took place at the end of October 2021 (as well as the acquisition of 99designs the year before). “Vista’s self-service studio has always been a weak point in the customer journey – but we believe we can significantly improve this with better templates, supported or professional designs,” Robert Keane summarizes some of the reasons for the acquisitions, and continues, “That’s why, as we planned to do with both acquisitions, we’re also investing in expanding development capabilities and integration.” This will successively create a unified design and service experience for Vista customers.
Due to acquisition costs and follow-on investments, and as a result of inflationary cost pressures, which Keane said could only be partially offset by price increases, and higher advertising expenses, Vista’s EBITDA, and therefore pre-tax profit, decreased $123.4 million year-over-year to $195 million; the lowest since fiscal 2018.
Fewer employees and closure of business in Japan
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Cimpress has proactively announced measures to further reduce spending on the cost side. For example, the online print market leader plans to reduce Vista’s workforce by about three percent – while withdrawing from areas, activities and businesses that “require a multi-year period to be positively reflected in financial results.” Like Japan, for example. There, the company said, it sees “a region that offers long-term opportunities but has not been profitable to date.” Cimpress is thus discontinuing its business in the Asian country.
In the future, priority is to be given to areas that drive the transformation described, such as design and service, new products, pricing, the partnership with Wix, expertise in website design, and the topic of personalization. In the long term, staffing levels are also to be increased again in these areas.
More optimistic about the 2023 financial year
For the coming fiscal year, Cimpress is optimistic that the organic, currency-adjusted growth of five percent most recently can be accelerated and maintained. With regard to profits, the Group is assuming a slower pace of growth for Vista. In fiscal 2023, for example, the effects of the acquisitions, including wage inflation, and increased input costs would first make themselves felt, even if they could be partially offset by the measures taken. In the case of EBITDA and UFCF, on the other hand, it is assumed that the profitability improvements will already be visible in the 2023 financial year and will even achieve new record values thereafter.
“Upload & Print” Business Unit
Cimpress’ “Upload & Print” business, which comprises seven European companies – including WirMachenDruck, druck.at, or pixartprinting – delivered the largest revenue growth within the Group in fiscal 2022, at 23 percent (30 percent adjusted for currency effects). Sales totaled $856 million – a new record. By comparison, in 2021, this segment’s sales were $696 million and in 2019, the last completely pandemic-free year, they were $769 million. The picture is similar for profit before tax. EBITDA reached 125 million euros, up from 86 (2021), 91 (2020) and 107 million euros (2019) most recently.
Cimpress attributes this segment’s strong gains in part to pricing measures – such as cost reductions and the use of wholesale transactions on Cimpress’ own MCP marketplace – as well as a surge in demand from customers following the gradual easing after the lockdowns. The two largest players in the business also added a record number of new customers, Robert Keane wrote.
For the coming financial year, the online print market leader in the “Upload & Print segment” nevertheless expects a normalized growth rate of around 10 percent again.
“National Pen” business unit
National Pen, the promotional products division of Cimpress, achieved 9 percent sales growth compared with fiscal 2021. At $342 million, sales here were very slightly lower than in the pre-Corona year 2019 ($348 million), but EBITDA increased significantly to $27 million. By comparison, pre-tax profit was $17 million in fiscal 2019, $8 million in 2020 and $12 million in 2021. This significant jump upward, as Robert Keane described in his letter to investors, was due in part to cost reductions in service centers and fulfillment, as well as improvements in other areas.
Among other things, he said, the company completed its restructuring at the end of the fiscal year, moving all of its websites into a single platform so that users can benefit from a simplified shopping experience and improved design capabilities. As part of this, National Pen also became pens.com. With the brand rebranding, National Pen aims to present itself as a service-oriented e-commerce provider and increase brand awareness. In addition, the product portfolio is to be expanded into other product groups in the future.
But there is one more decision that is likely to be discussed in the industry: European production is to be relocated from Ireland to the Czech Republic, thus ensuring further savings.
“All other Businesses” division
“All other Businesses”; under this term, Cimpress includes its “BuildASign” brand as well as its “early-stage investments” in Brazil (Printi) and China (YSD). With combined sales of $206 million ($182 million plus $24 million), this business unit also reached new highs – and achieved year-on-year growth of seven percent. After the “BuildASign” division saw a boom in demand for home décor products in particular during the first year of the pandemic, which returned to normal in fiscal 2022, the last two quarters saw increased growth in signage products, the company said. As a result, Cimpress expects steady growth in the “high single digits” for this segment in the coming years.
Cimpress sells its China business YDS
By contrast, the figures for the early-stage business, which in addition to the Brazilian start-up “Printi” also includes – or rather included – the Chinese start-up “YDS”, were more mixed. After all, although the investment in the completed fiscal year was once again higher than in the previous year, EBITDA and UFCF (Unlevered Free Cash Flow) were far below the figures from fiscal 2019 for the third time in a row. This was mainly due to higher losses in the China business with “YDS”.
In the fourth quarter, the Group therefore decided to discontinue its China business. The move is expected to generate annual savings of $5 million starting in fiscal 2023, which began back in July this year. This leaves only “Printi” in the “Early Stage Investments” segment, which, according to Cimpress, is the Brazilian market leader in the “Upload & Print” sector, whose sales growth accelerated in fiscal 2022 and also offers potential for the future.
Not “business as usual”
What stands out is that Cimpress has generated an increase in sales – albeit to varying degrees – in all business areas. Both total sales and total gross profit have set new records, driven by two major changes in the print market: the move from offline to online and from traditional production to mass customization.
Adjusted EBITDA declines
This is good news, but by no means a reason for Cimpress to “rest on its laurels”. This is because not all key figures achieved a plus: for example, the pre-tax profit (adjusted EBITDA) of the entire Group, at $281.1 million, was 19 percent lower than in the previous fiscal year. Here, of course, the costs of the acquisitions and investments, such as most recently in Cloudlab AG, the restructuring at Vista and National Pen, and inflation have a not insignificant impact.
Nevertheless, Cimpress is already taking proactive countermeasures – with decisions that one might not have suspected behind the – at first glance – so positive figures: the relocation of National Pen’s European production from Ireland to the Czech Republic, the reduction of employees at Vista and Cimpress Technology in areas that will no longer be a priority in the future, and the exit from business in China and Japan. Savings from all of these measures are ultimately expected to total about $25 million per year and help “offset wage inflation and other cost increases in our businesses.” Whether the measures will actually achieve the desired effects cannot be assessed for at least a year.
But you can also see that Robert Keane is not someone who puts off decisions. If a massive problem is identified, consequences follow. As a reminder: Following a comprehensive analysis (a few years ago), even the board was replaced in order to burn old bridges and break new ground. Entrepreneurial consistency can also hurt – but it often opens up new paths. In any case, it is noticeable that the Cimpress share price is rising again after the publication of the annual report. However, in view of the various crises, it is doubtful whether it will return to the “old heights” – at least for the next few months.