This week in Dana Greenlee’s column~ Personal Design Concepts, Inc.

Personal Design Concepts is a fast growing e-company in the "new economy."

The Lakewood Industrial Park is home to a fast growing company called Personal Design Concepts, Inc.

This local photo gift company is growing all the faster after embracing the “new economy,” creating an online e-tail market segment for this 10-year-old manufacturing company.

They now belong to the club of traditional business marrying technology, known as “bricks and clicks.” And they are making a success of it.

Personal Design Concepts founders, Don and Mavis Burnett, have seen their company grow to be the largest producer of photo personalized gift products in the United States.

The company produces gifts such as photo personalized mouse pads, mugs, Rubiks Cubes, calendars, tins, wall clocks, coasters, playing cards and many other products.

After many years as a thriving traditional wholesaler, Personal Design found the Internet an easier place to do business than did the Internet-only startup companies – ones that tackled e-tailing without business, merchandising, or wholesaling experience.

By using the Internet, and their www.ImagiGifts.com Website, as just one more branch of a marketing plan, including catalogs and strategic alliances, the company produces and distributes hundreds of thousands of photo gifts and advertising specialty items through 40,000-plus retail, Internet and Advertising Specialties Institute (ASI) reseller partners in the U.S. and abroad.

Personal Design Concepts has distribution and reseller supplier agreements through Kodak & Fuji Film into all of the major national retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, Safeway, Albertson’s, Kroger, Walgreen’s, Fred Meyer, Rite-Aid, Eckerd, CVS and more.

The company also supplies photo-personalized gifts to Wal-Mart.com, Seattle Film Works – Photoworks.com and other online resellers.

The Burnetts began their business a decade ago making photo mugs for a local Safeway distribution center, when Don decided he was not ready to retire.

The company has grown substantially over the past few years and is a family owned and operated company.

The family centric focus is passed on to every product the company makes. Mavis serves as President and Don is the CEO.

Don is a former marketing executive from Frito-Lay, where he was one of the prime movers in creating the Doritos brand corn chips over 30 years ago by combining 4 regional corn chip brands into one national brand.

Don and Mavis relocated to Pierce County 18 years ago from New Jersey when Don took a position with Tacoma-based Roman Meal Company as their VP of Sales & Marketing. They currently live in Gig Harbor.

Personal Design Concepts busiest time is during late October, November and December. The company hires 400-plus temporary employees and does most of it’s annual sales during the last quarter of the year.

This year, PDC will hire hundreds of manufacturing staff during the last few months of the year.

“Every year we have a tough time finding good seasonal help, we are hoping that with more folks looking for work we will find more high quality employees this year. We always have at least 30 percent of our temporary staff return year after year,” said Don Burnett, CEO of Personal Design Concepts.

“We are looking to have a very strong year with new products coming to the market place.”

PDC is also working fast to ramp up for the demand that is coming because of the strong trend toward digital photography.

This demand is all centered on the Internet and the brisk sales of digital cameras, as 9.3 percent of all households owned digital cameras in 2000, as opposed to 4.4 percent in 1999; while 4.6 percent obtained a digital camera in 2000 alone, according to a Photo Marketing Association survey.

The consumers who own digital cameras are also more likely to have computers, Internet connections, photo related software and are more likely to use an Internet photo website to have prints or photo gifts made from them.

A Photo Marketing Association survey says that 37.6 percent of digital camera owners have ordered photo prints from an Internet Website.

“We are seeing a strong movement towards digital images and a decline in the use of regular film and film processing over the coming years,” said Don Burnett.

“We have spent the past ten years gearing our business towards regular prints that come from Kodak and Fuji that are scanned and then applied to photo products.”

Digital imaging and the Internet are transforming the company into becoming almost a dotcom type of company.

“We are spending big dollars inside the company right now to build our IT and Internet infrastructure,” said Burnett.

“We are doing order data integration with companies like Wal-Mart.com and Seattle’s PhotoWorks.com. These types of retailers are our future, along with all the major national retailers as they ramp up to handle and store digital images.”

PDC is fast becoming an e-business and the use of fast computers and broadband will take PDC into the future with more direct data communication with its customers.

PDC is taking a very optimistic view on the economy and feels that the company is insulated from the current economic downturn, because people still value personalized gift type products.

“We feel that we add so much personal value to our products that people will continue to buy,” said Burnett.

“Digital images also give the consumer so much more control of their photo that they will continue to want to do creative things with their personal pictures.”

The Photo Marketing Association did a study and determined the top 10 occasions for photo taking ranked in order are christmas, birthdays, pets, travel, vacations, people visiting, home family events, business activities, baby, parties, thanksgiving and scenery.

The main reasons for taking photographs, according to the study, are to preserve memories, to share later with others, for pure enjoyment, to take photographs and to give away as gifts.

Personal Design Concepts has a corporate site at:

www.pdconcepts.com.

They also have a store at:

www.ImagiGifts.com.

Dana Greenlee writes about technology every Friday in the Index. WebTalkGuys, a Tacoma-based commercial-free talk show which features technology news and interviews, can be heard Saturdays from 11 a.m. to noon on KLAY 1180 AM in the Tacoma/Seattle area. Past show and interviews are also webcast via the Internet at:

www.webtalkguys.com.

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