Posting a profit


At first glance, dealers may be forgiven for thinking products needed for a mailroom are pretty obvious – some tape, envelopes and padded bags and you’ve pretty much got things sewn up. Or have you?
Well, maybe it’s time to rethink things. Times they are a-changing, and nowhere is this more evident than in the packaging and mailroom sector where innovation and technology-driven product launches are king.
The chances are, most dealers will have at least a basic mailroom and packaging offering, but is it really maximising the potential of this rapidly changing sector? Some manufacturers think not and believe it’s time resellers reassessed their knowledge in this area.
Advancements in technology, the increasing interest in eTailing, or internet trading, as well as the arrival of auction sites like eBay have all left their mark on this sector. And they continue to drive development of certain types of products needed for the mailroom.
"The mailroom and packaging sector requires a wide range of product groups," says Ulrike Feller of Frankfurt-based Werner Dorsch, owners of the WEDO brand of letter and postal scales.
"All kinds of electronic scales, franking machines, sorters, labelling machines and many others are needed for the mailroom, along with a large assortment of products from the packaging sector," she adds.
So, where do we start if we want to really tackle this product area straight on?
Maybe a look at the huge array of products that come under the heading of packaging and mailroom will give us a few pointers.
Global company Pregis offers a range of packaging solutions through its manufacturing and sales locations across North America and Europe. Operating in many different markets, one of the company’s business units is Protective Packaging Europe. If we click to the company’s website it’s easy to see the wealth of products involved in mailroom and packaging.
They include:
• Tapes and dispensers
• Cartons and boxes
• Postal tubes and book boxes
• Protective packaging such as bubble rolls, bubble bags and bubble wrap
• Envelopes and postal bags
• Corrugated paper
• Foam
• Polystyrene chips
• Silica gel packets
• Tissue papers
• Stretch film
• Glue guns
• Labels
And so it goes on…
And this huge list of products doesn’t even begin to touch on products like strapping kits for securing light cartons. These include a dispenser box, a coil of plastic strapping and locking plastic buckles to help secure a parcel.
There are also edge and corner protectors for furniture, pallet covers on a continuous roll, which can be cut to length to accommodate palletised loads of differing heights, and even bottle trolleys that carry propane gas cylinders for use with shrink guns.
It’s a pretty enormous choice for the dealer trying to maximise sales in this area, so just how do they ensure they are focusing on the most profitable areas for their business?
Jane Rowe, marketing director at John Dickinson Stationery, believes they need to look at how they can give that little bit extra to their customers.
"The sector overall is not growing. However, there is growth potential in some areas of the market where there is the ability to add value for the customer," she says.
"I’d urge dealers to be conscious of a growing awareness of the environment. Our Basildon Bond, Plus Fabric and New Guardian brands all address this need."
Don’t be shy
She adds: "I’d also tell them to promote the benefits of premium products to customers to improve the presentation of their business and improve the dealer cash margin."
Rowe also advises dealers not to be shy when asking for support from branded manufacturers. JD offers a Brands Marketing Partnership to support resellers.
She explains: "The Brands Marketing Partnership is a promotional programme which supports dealers in their sale of premium brands. It focuses on envelopes in Q4 with a national promotion of Basildon Bond recycled envelopes."
JD’s mailroom and packaging products include a wide range of envelopes with different sealing options, plus mailing machine envelopes, and packaging products such as bubble envelopes and postal cartons.
Fellow UK envelope manufacturer Curtis is in no doubt that the major increase in retailing over the internet is influencing this product sector.
According to the company’s latest research, eTailing in the UK is expected to rise to £40 billion ($81.8 billion) by the end of the year, with forecasters predicting this figure will soar to £162 billion by 2020.
Sales director Darren Stedeford also believes that dealers can benefit from pushing home to customers the importance of sending safe, secure parcels.
He says: "In 2006, Royal Mail admitted that more than 14 million letters and parcels were lost, stolen, damaged or tampered with, so it is essential that the packaging provides protection from potential ruin and pilferage, while keeping costs to a minimum."
The growth in internet trading has also been recognised by stamp specialist COLOP, which offers a large range of web-based products.
Gerald Binder of the company’s marketing department explains: "eCommerce is also having an influence on our market. COLOP offers a variety of eCommerce solutions to support our customers. A lot of stamp makers do good business by offering and selling self-inking stamps, and also personalised ones, via the internet."
Binder describes self-inking stamps as "by far the most important kind of stamps COLOP produces".
Within these kind of stamps, the company offers Printer Line, made out of plastic and available in a variety of formats and sizes, plus The Professional Line – metal-framed stamps described as ideal for heavy and daily use in warehouse-type environments.
Unsurprisingly, Binder says the company’s Printer Line range is its best selling mailroom product.
"The best sellers by far are the products of the Printer Line and, within this range, the Printer standard. This sub-range offers the six most important sizes – rectangular ones – which are perfectly suited as address stamps," he explains.
He adds: "They are equipped with an extra large image window, which allows the personalisation of the stamp and enables you to position something like a dealer’s logo in this prominent place."
Another key area for dealers to grow sales in mailroom is labelling. Avery Dennison Office Products offers a comprehensive range of addressing, franking, packaging and identification labels.
According to the business, of the 6.7 million addressing label users in the UK office environment, 62 percent have used Avery labels in the last 12 months.
The Avery addressing label range comprises 12 different sizes – from one label per sheet to 24 labels per sheet in pack sizes of 25 sheets up to 500.
Although the company acknowledges changing technologies are helping to reduce the number of mailed items, it does see plenty of positive indicators for dealers such as the arrival of eBay.
Avery’s marketing manager, Amy Collins, explains: "We have seen an overall decline in the number of items being mailed due to the growth of electronic communication and window envelopes.
"However, an interesting development helping to counteract this is the enormous growth from the shipment of items being bought online, and via internet auction sites such as eBay."
She continues: "Companies in mail order or website-based businesses need to ensure that their product arrives promptly and in good condition to avoid costly and time-consuming refunds and replacements.
"This is a key opportunity for dealers and Avery supports this via its range of shipping labels, which are specifically designed for parcel mailing.
"Avery even has extra-durable labels, which stick firmly to a variety of surfaces including plastic, glass and metal and are resistant to dirt, moisture and extremes of temperature," she adds.
The increased use of technology in the mailroom has also led to new product development and influenced Avery sales, says the company.
"The importance of software in mailroom evolution cannot be underestimated," Collins is quick to add.
"Since becoming a certified Microsoft Gold Partner with our Avery Wizard software, we have seen label sales grow by
14 percent."
Avery Wizard works with all commonly used Microsoft applications to help end users design, format and print labels and other stationery.
A new version (3.1) of the software has just been launched, which boasts faster and easier
mail-merging, as well as aiding the import of graphics and logos.
Available free to consumers, it can be downloaded from the Avery website.
Avery’s latest product development on the labels front is QuickPEEL, being introduced across the addressing label portfolio.
Described as "easier to peel and faster to apply than standard label products", it incorporates a perforation, which enables one column of labels to be removed at a time.
Collins explains: "This exposes the label edges, making them easier and thus quicker to remove. However, to ensure that traditional brand loyalists are not alienated, consumers have the choice to continue using labels as they always have, or to make use of the QuickPEEL technology for added speed when they need it."
Electronic scales
The advent of new technology in mailroom supplies has also had an impact on companies like Werner Dorsch.
Celebrating its 75th anniversary next year, the company operates in the mailroom and packaging sector through its range of electronic scales.
Ulrike Feller says this area of the business is "relatively stable, but not increasing", as are other hardware and consumable items.
She explains: "Sales of electronic scales and postal rate computing scales over the past three to four years are stable, but not increasing. Postal scales are integrated in today’s franking machine systems, which means no external scales are needed."
She adds: "From our point of view, we see no growth for scales in the mailroom sector in Europe. But there is an interesting market potential for industrial applications for electronic scales."
Her advice to dealers operating in this arena is simple. "Resellers must find niche markets that require special applications. We always inform all our partners of new successful installations."
The company’s WEDO electronic letter scales were first launched in 1982. Since then, more than 1.7 million have been installed worldwide.
Postal rates computing scales were launched three years later. More than 200,000 of these have been installed globally, reports Werner Dorsch.
The company enjoys a close relationship with its dealer partners, says Feller. "We run campaigns with our partners locally from time to time. We try to avoid ‘special’ prices. Occasionally we offer free, attractive gift products or related add-on products, which can be used in the mailroom or warehouse area," she explains.
Working side by side with resellers is also a key objective for Avery Dennison.
In the UK, the company is preparing a major marketing campaign to support the launch of the new QuickPEEL feature and has increased penetration of its Mini Identification Labels through the ‘How Valuable Is Your Mail’ campaign.
Avery is convinced sampling and software are key to helping dealers capitalise in this business area.
"Sampling is a key tool for raising awareness and demonstrating product performance and hence conversion to purchase," says Cheryl Marsh, sales manager for Avery Dennison UK.
"Once consumers have tried a high quality, technologically-advanced label that is specifically designed for a particular job, they come to depend on."
She continues: "Dealers, in turn, will benefit from the higher profit margin achieved by selling branded goods."
The business supports dealers with sample packs and bespoke web-based campaigns, which can be used as part of their consumer marketing efforts.
Avery also encourages consumers to download Avery Wizard software onto their PC, making it easier to mail-merge for high volume mailing.
Dealers should also be aware of potential problems their customers may experience in the mailroom so that they can offer a solution with their product portfolio, says Avery’s Amy Collins.
"Speed and efficiency are fundamental here – products that won’t let you down whichever software and hardware are being used in the mailroom."
Another interesting fact for dealers is that in the UK, Royal Mail has the power to dispose of any mail without a return address – something that can be used to the dealer’s advantage to sell labels.
"Thousands of business letters and parcels go undelivered each year because they are poorly addressed or don’t have a return address label applied," explains Collins.
"Many people are not aware that in the UK, if a piece of business mail cannot be delivered, it will be destroyed unless there is a return address indicated on the outside of the envelope or parcel."
She adds: "Therefore, to avoid the disposal of undeliverable mail there is huge potential to sell return-addressing labels."
Establishing growth areas in this challenging product sector is certainly no easy task for dealers, although it can be done, provided they embrace the technological advances and use them to their advantage, reckon manufacturers.
Avery’s Cheryl Marsh adds: "All of the technological advances that we have introduced into our label ranges, together with the supporting software, offer differentiation, consumer confidence and potential for high volume sales."