In Profile: Spicers Canada Limited

Spicers Canada is a leading distributor of fine paper, graphic arts supplies, sign and display media, and industrial packaging products and equipment. Their Vancouver branch was founded in 1941.

We met with Jason Schneider, BC Region General Manager and Brenda Cofield, Specification Sales Consultant to discuss the business and their role in providing education and assistance to designers.

Interview: Jason Schneider and Brenda Cofield

How long has Spicers been a GDC Partner?

JS: Spicers (formerly called Coast Paper) has been a GDC sponsor for as long as anyone can remember. In fact, our company has continually supported the graphic design community since being founded in 1941. We have always valued the important role designers play in the success of our business. 

We started as a family run paper merchant selling fine paper to our commercial printers for many years. During those early years we realized that our business has a two pronged approach; you have to service the printers but you also have to educate and consult with the graphic designers. When ink hits paper and you want  a finished product, we’re working with the printers, but at the conceptual stage we’re working with the designers to determine what the product can achieve.

BC: That relationship with graphic designers has always been a part of the role that our employees play. We have always called on designers. Way back in the 1950’s and 1960’s we were engaging with graphic designers.  

What set you apart from the competition?

JS: Spicers has dedicated itself to a commitment of excellent customer service. We believe that if we take good care of our customers, both of our businesses will benefit. This dedication to our customers is manifested in our long standing support of graphic designers throughout the province and also in our investment into local empowerment, such as with our local resource centre. 

Also, we’re regionally controlled, and what that means for customers is that we are empowered as a branch to do whatever we need to do to satisfy our customers. We’re trying to be that consistent, reliable supply partner for our customers.

How can Spicers help GDC members?

JS: Spicers helps GDC members throughout their career, starting with educating design students at the various universities and colleges with our Paper Knowledge Workshops. For designers who are out in the field working we put on shows with around 15 to 20 designers in attendance to explain exactly what a new product is going to look like and the applications for them in their projects. We also have personal consultations with designers. In addition, our resource centre provides designers and other customers with mill swatches and samples from our manufacturing partners around the world to help them make the best choice for their projects. Our cash and carry store allows designers to buy office supplies and Pantone guides directly.

BC: In this industry, everybody is constantly learning. One of the great things that the paper mills provide us with are those educational tools. New products and techniques are coming out all the time and with these the mills regularly produce new promotional pieces that will inspire graphic designers. We often see new and creative processes coming into the market from those promotional pieces that we receive. These promotional pieces are one of the few ways that graphic designers can really learn about new techniques and new processes coming down the pipe.

How does the company measure success?

JS: We measure our success by our customers’ success. We take personal pride in knowing that we have provided products and services to customers, who in turn have used these things to provide a valued service or product to their customers. We’ve grown throughout the years because our customers grow. We wouldn’t be here if our customers didn’t trust us to be that important supply chain partner. 

What is Spicer’s proudest moment?

JS: Being asked to be profiled by the GDC definitely ranks high on the list. However, I think that our proudest achievement is the longevity that our business has endured. It has changed immensely over our 70 plus years of history. We are quite proud that we continue to provide value to our customers day in and day out, and maintain close relationships with those customers.

BC: And being able to change too over the years. We’ve diversified and moved into other areas like sign and display and industrial. This has enabled us to bring more to our customers.

JS: Those areas that we are branching off into are compliment to our core business which is commercial printing. We still see commercial printing as a viable business, it’s just going through a lot of change. Long print runs are not as prevalent as they once were, but what’s growing is wide format, sign and display applications and packaging. So our business is changing and we’re here to grow with it and change with it. 

What’s the latest thing at Spicers?

JS: This past June we moved from our previous location to our new location in Richmond. After 32 years, it proved to be a significant change, but one that was executed flawlessly by our staff. We love our new location, and would welcome any of our customers to come by and see us.