What Happened to Kinko’s?
Kinko’s was a chain of retail stores specializing in various business services. That included printing, copying, and other document-related services.
For us, Kinko’s is just a quirky name. But for many vagabonds in the 1970s and the 1980s, it was a second home, a place where they could hope.
Aspiring writers, graduate students, insomniacs, businesspeople – everyone used to visit the nearest Kinko’s outlet whenever they needed something printed, scanned, or faxed. It saved college sophomores thousands of dollars each year.
And just like that, it was gone and left people to wonder – is Kinko’s still in business in 2023?
Unfortunately, Kinko’s is no longer operational after its acquisition by FedEx and the subsequent name change. After the rebranding, Kinko’s (now known as FedEx Office) expanded the scope of its services and changed the entire business model.
Technically, Kinko’s still exists, just with a different name. But with all the changes FedEx has made, it’s safe to say that the beloved office supplies company is no longer in the running.
Feel like knowing more about Kinko’s and its abrupt end? Keep reading. We have a thrilling tale of ups and downs in store for you!
What is Kinko’s?
Kinko’s was the most popular retail chain store for document-related services like copying, printing, and marketing. While the main purpose of launching the company was to provide office services, the brand became largely popular among non-professional consumers too.
The company was the brainchild of Paul Orfalea, who continued at its helm until his retirement in 2000. Kinko’s was founded in the 1970s and expanded in its size and services steadily over the years.
In the 1980s, the company played a significant role in the influence of counterculture in the United States. Wayward poets, travelers, dropouts, and other norm-challenging folk used Kinko’s services to further their message to society.
The stores were open on a 24/7 basis, making them easily accessible to its main target market – small business owners, students, and professionals – at all times. Over the year, Kinko’s started offering services like digital printing and graphic designing as well.
The brand’s growing reputation and profits attracted several eyes, including that of the largest transportation company in the USA. But that’s a story for later.
For now, let’s rewind a bit.
A Glimpse at Kinko’s Intriguing History
Kinko’s was founded in 1970 by Paul Orfalea. He set up the first store near the University of California in Barbara.
The story behind the company’s name is an interesting one. Paul Orfalea was popularly called Kinko because of his curly red hair.
Paul’s contribution to his business was immense. He started the company from the ground up with a small loan from his father.
What started with a single 100 square feet joint eventually expanded to an empire that was 1,000 branches strong with a healthy revenue stream.
While Kinko’s had a relatively strong start, the ending was filled with controversies and dissensions.
Why did Paul Orfalea Sell Kinko’s to FedEx?
FedEx acquired Kinko’s in 2004. And there was a long line of controversies and internal conflicts that led to that moment. The main problem was Kinko’s faltering business structure.
Instead of the traditional franchise model, Paul had started his empire of over 1,000 stores based on loose relationships with each store owner.
In a later statement, Paul reminisced about his older company cultures, where he prioritized ‘shared power, shared profits, and shared knowledge’ for everyone. Unfortunately, such a structure was unsustainable for a business as big as Kinko’s.
The company had around 126 partnerships at the height of its power. To consolidate the entire brand under a single corporate leadership, Kinko’s needed to adopt a more centralized strategy.
To achieve that, Paul and Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CDR), a large investment firm, changed the entire business structure using a top-down management approach. While that created a lot of tension among the corporate leaders and store owners, it was a successful move.
But the new structure also made Paul less powerful than he was before. In 1997, he sold a large chunk of the company to CDR. And in 2000, he left Kinko’s of his own accord following a dispute with the investment firm.
And that is how a partnership that was decades old came to an abrupt end. To create a profitable exit for everyone, CDR opened negotiations with FedEx and sold the company to the American giant.
But why did FedEx want to acquire Kinko’s anyway? Let’s find out.
Why did FedEx Acquire Kinko’s? The Failed Plan Behind The Move
The acquisition of Kinko’s was a strange one. But FedEx had its own reasons. The PR team felt that it would make a good story to highlight the synergy between the services both companies offered.
Kinko’s, the modern purveyor of business-oriented digital services, prepared many of the documents that FedEx used to ship on a cross-country basis. The relationship, therefore, would be a great marketing as well as a business move for both.
Unfortunately, that was only the case for a short while. Paper-based services were already diminishing. FedEx could not realize its projected profits and decided that it was time for a change. And the change wasn’t small.
A major rebranding was in the process.
Kinko’s Becomes FedEx Office: The Rebranding Begins
In 2008, FedEx declared that it was changing the name of its struggling Kinko’s services unit to FedEx Office. The parent company estimated that the rebranding would cost them approximately $900 million, a whopping figure.
Despite the involvement of huge overheads, the company officials felt that the change was necessary.
The main reason was that old customers still associated Kinko’s with just print and fax services. However, FedEx has improved its service line, offering shipping, printing, digital documentation work, and so on.
To reflect the expansive services they offered, Kinko’s storefronts needed a massive revamp. The customary name change to FedEx Office reflected the professionalism and office-oriented services they strived to offer.
What Happened to Kinko’s After the Rebranding?
After the rebranding, Kinko’s was just a distant name for people who had lived through the 1970s and the 1980s. The new brand, FedEx Office, had an entirely different approach to business.
The company changed its primary clientele to small businesses and home office clients, while Kinko’s was a popular figure among non-professional consumers also. Despite the major changes, FedEx Office recorded steady profits.
They have amassed $2 billion in revenues to date, with around 2,200 operating facilities on a global level. However, FedEx Office is still struggling to compete against the likes of Office Depot, Staples, and the UPS Store.
So, Is Kinko’s Still in Business in 2023?
No, Kinko’s is officially shut down after the major rebranding, which resulted in the birth of FedEx Office. The name change wasn’t just a marketing move. The rebranding altered the principles, values, and the entire business model.
It’s safe to say that FedEx Office is not Kinko’s.
Paul Orfalea agrees with our standpoint. Ever since FedEx’s untimely acquisition, Paul has been mournful about the changes introduced in his beloved company.
What was once the model of a democratic fusion of different business owners has now become a generic corporate association.
Everything that Kinko’s offered – reliable customer service, easy accessibility, and inclusivity – became lost ever since Paul stepped down from his post in 2000.
For a professional printing business, Kinko’s had a significantly dramatic effect on people’s lives in the 1980s and the 1970s.
The company had a distinctive business model, which was changed significantly when FedEx took over. While the legacy of Kinko’s still lives on with FedEx Office, the original brand had already disappeared in 2000, when Paul decided to step down from his post.