Kinko's hits the local marketplace

Kinko's hits the local marketplace

The first copies of the Starr Report were printed here, Dave Letterman has celebrated New Year's Eve here and characters on Seinfeld and Mad About You are regular customers.

Now Kinko's, North America's largest chain of business service centres, has hit Australia.

The company opened its sixth Australian store in Chatswood last month, just two-and-a-half years after it first opened its doors in Liverpool Street, Sydney.

There will be two more stores opening in Sydney by the end of this year, and next year will see the outfit expand interstate, with four centres in Melbourne and two in Brisbane. The company aims to have 50 outlets nationwide by 2005.

According to Christina Caughey, Kinko's marketing manager, the company provides a full range of business services 24 x 7 but it is `not just a photocopy shop.

`Kinko's helps you communicate in whatever way you want,' Caughey said. `There's nothing quite like Kinko's. The fact that it is open all the time gets people excited. It's amazing how busy it is at 3am!'

Services include the full range of copying, laminating and binding services, self-serve copiers, computer and Internet access, telephones and even videoconferencing.

`We like to ride on the edge of technology and keep our equipment updated,' Caughey said. `We specialise in top-of-the-line digital printing. Kinko's in the US is Fuji Xerox's second biggest client after the Government and we're also big clients of Canon.'

Kinko's started 30 years ago when the company's founder, Paul Orfalea, was at university. Nicknamed 'Kinko' for his wiry reddish hair, Orfalea struggled with his studies due to dyslexia. While not a brilliant student himself, he noticed that everyone needed copying facilities, so he borrowed money to buy a (then newly invented) photocopier and set himself up in business on the university lawn.

The first store was 100 square feet and featured a single copier, offset press, film processing and a small selection of stationery and school supplies.

The space became so crowded that, at times, the copier was rolled out on the footpath and used there for self-serve copies.

Kinko's has now expanded to over 900 branches in North America, the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, China and Great Britain.

Caughey says Kinko's focus has always been customer service, but the needs of the customers have evolved with changing technology. `As technology grows, the world becomes smaller,' Caughey said. `We want to provide clients with a worldwide base. Customers crave recognition so we strive to give them something extra. It's about building relationships.'

Kinko's makes an effort to adapt to the culture and customs of its host country, by teaming up with a local company.

`When Kinko's goes international, it usually goes 50/50 with a partner from the country,' Caughey explained.

`We want to take on the culture of that country, not just barge in as a big American company and walk all over everyone.'

Kinko's Australia is owned 45 per cent by Kinko's International, 45 per cent by WC Penfolds and 10 per cent by Australian managing director John Esson.

Kinko's stores are owned privately by the one company, not franchised, so customers can use their accounts at any Kinko's store worldwide and find the same range of facilities in each centre.

Caughey says the bonus for customers is a quicker turnaround time for large jobs.

`The job might physically take five days, but because we're all the one company, we can farm it out to several different stores and cut it down to two days,' she explained. `That's not possible with franchises, because every store has different ownership and management.'

Kinko's is further distinguished from its competitors by the 24 x 7 opening hours, the variety of products and services, the self-service areas with computers and machines and the attitude of the staff, Caughey claims.

The chain is ideal for travelling business people who can go to a Kinko's anywhere in the world where the set-up facilities are the same. The Kinko's centre functions as a second office where they can check e-mail, update reports and work on presentations at any time of the day or night.

Caughey says Kinko's is aiming for the corporate market, but every branch has its own personality and set of customers. `The York and Pitt Street stores are very corporate, for example,' Caughey said. `But the Broadway store is in between UTS [University of Technology] and Sydney University, so it tends to attract more students and small business.'

Each store will build links with the community by sponsoring a local school, and the company also has an environmental program running in most locations to recycle paper, reduce energy demand, become more material efficient and maintain a healthy workplace.

Kinko's is growing so fast in Australia, it initially had problems finding enough staff, but Caughey says they have reached the point where people have started to approach them.

Fortune magazine recently voted Kinko's one of the top 100 companies to work for in the US, and Caughey says the Australian division has a similar commitment to staff training and morale.

`We have a great team,' she said. `The head office is a core group of eight to 10 people who are truly dedicated and committed to the greater vision. Three of them are American and the others have visited Kinko's in the US and have an idea of the big picture.'

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