The Webmart Story

The year was 1996.

A fresh-faced 30 something with Harry Potter glasses and a young family had been working as sales director for the British Printing Corporation for around 6 years, but decided it was time for a change.

Being on the road for most of the week didn’t give much time for a family life. Besides, with the fledgling internet offering new possibilities and Simon feeling he was missing lots of opportunities by simply funnelling customer demand into the limited range of presses available at BPC, he knew it was time for a change

One of the goals for Simon’s new business was not to own presses; there was over-supply in the UK as it was and the last thing he needed was expensive leases on kit. He also knew that a typical printing press needs to operate at around 90% capacity to break even and he’d had more than enough fun feeding BPC presses’ insatiable appetite to know that’s a difficult way to run a business.

And so, Webmart (not EuroWeb or Euro-Print as it could’ve been) was formed – with the ‘web’ part actually referring to web-offset printing rather than the world wide web.

As a salesman for BPC, Simon knew that they were great for some products, but not so great for others. So, with Webmart, he wanted to help customers match their demand with the right presses, saving them money and getting a better job. It also meant he didn’t have to turn orders away – Webmart could print anything. And it quickly became a great success.

The first office was a tiny 4 x 9 feet box in a rented serviced office. It had paper-thin walls right next door to the gents; somewhat less than aspirational. It served its purpose though, with a fax, a computer/modem, a phone and somewhere to hang his double-breasted Burtons suit. As startups go in the late ‘90s, it was pretty lean.

As the orders rolled in, there was steady growth. An office move above a scrap metal merchants, then to some offices on a farm was accompanied by new sales team members and, crucially, the birth of the IT team.

Being in sales, Simon knew that when customers asked for a price, they wanted it immediately. That tied in nicely with Simon’s sales instinct that told him if he could give a price immediately, he’d be in a much better place to make the sale. Webmart’s Instant Print Price Estimator went live with the Webmart sales team and was an instant success.

A couple of years later, it would be made available online for other printers to use.
A picture of Webmart’s first Website. The fact it was faxed to preview speaks volumes!

A picture of Webmart’s first Website. The fact it was faxed to preview speaks volumes!

Around this time, a few key tenets emerged that would, in time, form the building blocks for Webmart’s future path. Creating emotional, financial, and intellectual value for those within Webmart – and those outside – means Webmart’s goal is to try and help everyone not just in direct financial terms through the services it offers, but in other ways too; ways that benefit us mentally or emotionally. If Webmart’s business activities add value in any of these ways, then it’s worth doing. If it doesn’t, then Webmart doesn’t do it. Simple.

With the price estimator live, Webmart then developed its own CRM/SRM system and digital project management suite, and expanded first into Scotland and then to Barnsley (Simon’s home town) giving Webmart truly national coverage for the first time.

Simon’s focus on creating competitive advantage through technology was further bolstered in 2007, with the launch of This online tool allowed Webmart to communicate and get prices off hundreds of printers simultaneously, while allowing every Webmart approved supplier free access to live orders.

The transformation of Webmart’s dull 80’s-tastic industrial unit into the Webmart Yellow Shed of Wonderment began in 2009, and hasn’t stopped yet. The yellow-clad exterior is only one small external manifestation of the changes inside which include several themed meeting rooms, a gym, chill out room and retro-diner.

Shots from around the Bicester Yellow Shed of Wonderment

This outward transformation has coincided with an internal transformation in the form of YellowPrint – a plan to democratise the running of Webmart coupled with a renewed focus on the products and services Webmart offers. And with further building updates planned and the business moving into new and exciting areas of print, the whole Webmart story is far from written.