Joppa firm takes orders by mail

CASHING IN ON CHECKS

April 18, 1993|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,Staff Writer

Hoping to cash in on a booming discount personal check-printing business, a Joppa firm has become the first company on the East Coast to market checks directly to the consumer.

The Check Gallery Inc. began printing checks about a week ago at its 26,000-square-foot plant in the Fashion Court Business Park.

John Browning, Check Gallery's president, began implementing the business plan last October for the company, which has created 31 jobs. Mr. Browning, of Fallston, had been a senior vice president for the now-defunct American Bank Stationery in White Marsh, and many Check Gallery employees worked for him at American. He had intended to open his business in Tennessee, but said the availability of former American Bank Stationery workers helped persuade him to stay in Maryland. He said the company hopes to have 50 employees by the end of the year. Mr. Browning said a market study indicated that in the past six years, more consumers have chosen direct-sell checks to save money. The study also pointed out that 70 percent of the check buyers in the United States are women.

The company has the financial backing of Davis & Henderson Intercheques Ltd., Canada's largest check printer. "It's a joint venture that I couldn't refuse," Mr. Browning said. The company joins about six direct-to-consumer firms that have picked up about 10 percent of the $2 billion-a-year U.S. check-printing business in the last six years. Three manufacturers who primarily supply checks through financial institutions -- Deluxe, John Harland and Clarke-American -- have long dominated the industry. The company has invested more than $1.3 million in printing machinery and computer equipment to handle the more than 4,000 orders it expects daily. It projects $2.5 million in sales for the rest of 1993.

Consumers who buy checks from the company will save up to 50 percent off the prices normally charged by banks and other financial institutions, Mr. Browning said.

Introductory orders start at $4.95 for 200 single checks and $5.95 for 200 checks with carbon copies.

Mr. Browning said the company has a $1 million budget for advertising. Most of that will go toward inserts in the Sunday editions of newspapers across the nation and magazines targeting women, such as Mademoiselle and Women's Day, he said.

Hoping to lure the environmentally conscious buyer, the company also produces a line of checks made of recycled papers, using soy-based ink and inserted into check-book covers made of recycled vinyl. The "Earth Line" series, a four-design set featuring endangered animals, is being sold at -- the same cost as regular checks.

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