Considered an essential business, Allegra Marketing Print Mail in Cedar Rapids stayed open through the COVID-19 Pandemic. City, county and state contracts for printing services helped sustain them. That said, they were deeply affected like most small to mid-sized companies.
“Sales were off-of-goal by 25% early in the crisis,” said Eric Van Kerckhove, general manager and co-owner. “Revenues rebounded for a while but are likely to be down 10% to 20% every month for the foreseeable future.”
In reaction to the downturn, the center sent each worker home for one day a week and termed it “paid social-distancing time off.” The staff returned to a five-day work schedule soon thereafter, but the company put in place its summer operating hours several months early.
“Business permitting, we now close at 2:00 p.m. on Fridays,” said Van Kerckhove. “It’s a good way to trim about four hours from everyone’s normal 40-hour-a-week work schedule and salary.
“Diversification played a key role in keeping us going. We’re not dependent on any one product or service. We offer it all — from graphic design, wide format, signage and web services to marketing, printing and mail. Branded apparel and promotional products are also two product lines that have been growing for us.”
Allegra’s Crisis-Assistance Initiatives Gain Praise
Shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Allegra network created and distributed a Business Continuity Manual as well as a Liquidity Resource Guide — both of which were highly praised by franchise members for their practical information.
These communications came on top of the company’s frequent webinars, emails and crisis updates. Many were delivered within hours of news on major government initiatives.
No effort was spared. Allegra network’s executive leadership team and regional directors fielded phone calls from and shared expertise with franchise members day and night. Their concerns about liquidity were also quickly addressed.
“The company’s Royalty Relief Plan is a real testament to their commitment to our success,” said Van Kerckhove. “It demonstrates the home office is in this together with us center owners. They stepped up with three good options for us to gain discounts and/or defer payments.”
Allegra Cedar Rapids successfully received funding through the initial period of the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.
“At this point, the marketing assistance we’re receiving is invaluable,” said Van Kerckhove. “We’re advising clients on how to get back to business. Of course, we’re also promoting the Allegra products and services they’ll need to reopen.”
Network Participation Delivers Another Benefit
Allegra center owners gained exposure to innovative ideas implemented by other franchise members who are in the same situation but in different markets.
“A prime example is a special offer from another Allegra,” said Van Kerckhove. “On their web-to-print storefront, they posted a template of a COVID-19 Crisis safety flyer. It could be customized at no charge by any local business. They also included free printing.”
The concept prompted local companies to try online print ordering. It showed them how easily they could personalize a posted template with their name and address. Of course, the safety flyer also benefited public health.
“It’s a win for the community at large, local companies and the Allegra center,” said Van Kerckhove. “It’s also a plus for us fellow Allegra business owners. By sharing good ideas, we’ll help each other get through this crisis.”