Marking & Stamping Category Analysis: On your marks

The marking and stamping sector has had a difficult time over recent years. The industry is now showing some positive signs, but it's by no means a universal story.

The marking and stamping sector is best described as the curate’s egg of the OP industry – good in parts. Reports from all the big players suggest rather a mixed bag of sentiment, with some firms reporting strong sales and enthusiastic projections, while others seem less optimistic about the future.

Jimmy Chen, Deputy Executive Manager at Taiwan-based Shiny Stamp, falls into the more bullish camp: “Despite recessionary pressures Shiny continues to enjoy steady growth year after year, with a surge of 14% in 2014 to date.”

Roland Rier, Managing Director at Trodat in Austria, is equally positive: “We remain on course for success and plan to double sales to around H300 million ($377 million) by 2020.” Austrian arch-rival COLOP, meanwhile, is more cautious in its positivity. Franz Ratzenberger, Head of International Sales & Marketing, says: “The stamp market as a whole seems quite stable, but it’s not a homogenous story, with some markets more difficult than others. However, overall we are winning market share; 2014 has started well and looks like it’ll be a prosperous one for us.”

Across the border in Germany, Reiner, a manufacturer of numbering machines and metal stamps, tells a more downbeat tale. Marketing Manager Annette Zandomeni explains: “The general stamp markets matured a long time ago and are now saturated, especially in Europe. The product offering is huge and the technical solutions numerous. The metal stamp segment has survived, but it’s now shrinking.” 

Navitor in the US also talks of a contracting industry, although General Manager Chad Fitterer is keen to point out that it is turning this to its advantage: “The market for marking devices has been in decline for the past ten years or more. This trend is evidenced by stamp provider consolidation and divestment from smaller stamp manufacturers to larger providers like us. The main difference between us and other global providers is that Navitor continues to invest in the industry.”

Geographical split

This geographically patchy performance and general tale of traditional markets in retreat has emphasised the need to seek new opportunities in those parts of the world that offer stronger growth prospects.

Trodat’s Rier spells this out: “Approximately 75% of the main markets for the stamp business currently lie in Europe and North America, but in many countries here we are faced with stagnating or declining demand as a result of weak economic development and a strong trend towards digitisation. Global growth in the stamp business is mainly underpinned by the large demand seen in emerging markets. Asia –in particular China – is at the forefront here with the need for stamps mushrooming due to the tens of thousands of start-up companies that are founded daily.”

Shiny’s Chen is also optimistic about prospects in new markets: “We market products in more than 100 countries in all corners of the globe. Demand is steady in developed countries, but truly great in emerging ones.”

COLOP mentions Asia as a key expanding market, but additionally cites that Africa and South America offer huge possibilities. “This is partly based on the fundamentally strong economic development in these regions,” says Ratzenberger, “but also on good collaboration with COLOP’s global partners.” He also mentions expanding production facilities in Austria and the Czech Republic to keep up with this demand and the establishment of new, rapidly growing satellite companies in Spain and Hungary, showing that there’s life in the European markets yet.

Making a mark

The need to innovate, improve and modernise stamping and marking products is a key theme for all those companies that OPI spoke to.

As Reiner’s Zandomeni explains: “Today’s customers are looking for solutions. They expect answers to their requirements on identification, traceability and security when they process goods or documents and want stamps that are ergonomic, efficient and safe.”

She puts forward Reiner’s new range of handheld inkjet printers as versatile products that encapsulate these trends: “Our jetStamps can print on paper, cardboard, metal or plastic and provide automatic numbering, date, time, text, graphics or even print a barcode. These imprints can all be created by the user on a PC using our supplied software.”

Trodat sees huge potential in converting users of traditional wooden hand stamps to new self-inking models. That said, its latest product to launch is the Ideal Seal. Led by market research that identified a strong desire for a better-performing seal press, the company has produced a device it says is both easier to manufacture and easier to use. 

Shiny has also gone down this route and released the new Shiny Embossing Seal, saying that its pressure reduction system is a good example of using breakthroughs in technology to create something that would not have been possible a decade ago.

COLOP regards itself as an innovation leader in the business. “We always want to create something new, something unprecedented,” says Ratzenberger. “This is plain to see in our new Pocket Stamp Plus, with its unique contemporary design and eight different colour variations. It’s the ideal address stamp that’s always with you, carried in your pocket or handbag or even hung on a lanyard around your neck where it becomes a trendy accessory.” 

He points out that, technologically, it’s the automatic slide mechanism that singles it out: “With no cap to remove (or lose), you just slide and get stamping – it’s a one-handed neat solution.”

Green credentials are also important to COLOP. “Our new printer generation is optimised in line with environmental principles. Unavoidable CO2 emissions released during production are offset through investments in climate protection projects. Based on the cradle-to-grave principle, our new printers are CO2 neutral,” Ratzenberger explains.

Keeping it personal

Like in many areas of the OP industry, the desire from end users to personalise their workspace and the products they use is strong, and the marking and stamping sector is no exception.

Navitor’s Fitterer sees this as a key trend, noting that marking devices continue to be required to authenticate documents, print codes or messages in difficult places such as boxes and pallets, for general business use or artistic and craft purposes. He explains: “The industry’s ebbs and flows are partly related to documentation regulation, but there’s also an increasing desire from people to personalise and create unique ways of addressing invitations, mark gifts and design their own stationery. We’re excited by our new 2000 Plus Printer Line stamps – in addition to improved features and performance, they also allow for expanded personalisation options that make the stamps as unique as the users themselves.”

Shiny’s Chen also mentions this theme: “Personalisation is a key area that’s welcomed by customers. Stamp units are no longer plain and dull, and users can transfer their own desired artwork onto the stamp unit to freshen up their desktop.”

Ratzenberger is a keen advocate of COLOP’s approach here: “The move away from mass-produced, identical products towards individualised items is a huge trend. COLOP introduced the idea of a personalised stamp product years ago, but our new Printer and its extra-large image window takes this to a new level and offers boundless possibilities – use it for photos, QR codes, company logos or cartoons. Individual, personal creations are what end users want and they can create these with our software tools. Alternatively, we can respond to specific design requests if required.”

So curate’s egg it may be, but the marking and stamping industry shows plenty of life yet. By embracing emerging markets and keeping the product line fresh, innovative and exciting, many key players still see a bright future where they can truly stamp their authority.