Vistaprint beefs up by acquiring a global network of freelance designers

Just as Etsy’s network connects craftspeople with consumers, 99designs connects designers with small businesses that want art for logos, business cards, banners, and the like. Vistaprint, meanwhile, specializes in printing these products for small businesses; Vistaprint added personalized face masks to its lineup this year.

Sean Quinn, chief financial officer for Vistaprint and Cimpress, said acquiring 99designs will fill a void in Vistaprint’s offerings. The company has some in-house design staff, he said, but not nearly enough to meet the needs of its small-business clientele.

“We want Vistaprint to be the marketing partner [of choice] to small businesses,” Quinn said. “The capabilities around design are really critical to that. This really brings up the capabilities to serve the design needs for print and digital products in a way we could never have done on our own.”

Quinn said 99designs will continue to keep its name, at least for now, while being run as part of Vistaprint; 99designschief executive, Patrick Lewellyn, will report directly to Robert Keane, the CEO of Cimpress and Vistaprint.

Cimpress is headquartered in Ireland, but most of Vistaprint’s senior management team, including Quinn, are based in Waltham. (Keane is based in France.) The two businesses employ about 800 people in Greater Boston: 750 or so typically work out of the Waltham office, while 50 are in downtown Boston. Nearly all of the local employees work remotely now.

Quinn said owning a platform that can connect buyers and sellers around the world has become more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the pandemic has clouded the overall revenue picture for Cimpress and Vistaprint. Sales plummeted in late March and early April, Quinn said. “For so many small businesses, overnight, the lights were turned off,” Quinn said.

Total revenue at Cimpress fell 36 percent in the fourth quarter that ended in June, and annual revenue dropped from nearly $2.8 billion in the previous year to nearly $2.5 billion in the most recent 12-month period. (The Vistaprint segment represents about half of the company’s revenue, $1.3 billion in the last fiscal year.) That said, sales continued to improve as economies around the globe rebounded, and in July they were only down by 5 percent at Cimpress, year over year.

“We took pretty swift action to cut costs and also to raise capital . . . to allow our businesses to remain flexible,” Quinn said. “We also continue to invest in our future, in what’s going to be the driver of growth beyond the pandemic. We think this acquisition is a good example of that.”

Jon Chesto can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.

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