Labelprint24 and Packaging Warehouse have recently become part of the All4Labels Global Packaging Group but will continue to operate as subsidiaries under their own brand. Beyond Print spoke to Stefan Harder, Managing Director of Labelprint24, about the background to the takeover and what plans the companies now have – with the clout of the group behind them.
Beyond Print: Stefan, you’ve been successful on the market with Labelprint24 for many years, and your sons Nils and Lasse have now also started their own company with Packaging Warehouse. What were the reasons behind the takeover by All4Labels?
Stefan Harder: We want to continue to grow, including into other product areas, and are currently preparing our next expansion steps; with an extension, more production space and a larger portfolio. Because you can’t do something of this magnitude on your own, we were already talking to a financial investor when All4Labels approached us.
Our interests were a good fit: I want to massively expand the online business and I think that works well together with a group that is also interested in making the online business in packaging international and rolling out the topic broadly. That appealed to me, as did the network that All4Labels brings with it. The group is already active in many countries and also has different purchasing conditions. Overall, I think this will make it easier for us to proceed.
All4Labels on the other hand liked our business model and our automation. After all, the group is no longer only active in the label market, but also in the areas of folding cartons and flexible packaging. In May, the start-up Palamo was also founded to serve the online sector. What they have been missing, however, is someone who has been established as an online player in this market for many years, as well as someone with experience and the relevant know-how. All4Labels knows that the future lies in online business. And those who have recognized this have two options: Either one builds up the online area on their own. Of course, this takes time and even with a lot of money, you couldn’t go this way any faster. Or you can bring an experienced online company on board, as All4Labels has done with us. In terms of online and packaging, we are already very far ahead of others. And: The goals for us and All4Labels are congruent and that was actually the reason why I decided to join forces.
Beyond Print: What are those goals in concrete terms?
Stefan Harder: In one word: expansion: grow, grow, grow. Taking the packaging market online.
Beyond Print: Labelprint24 and Packaging Warehouse are fully online. In the case of the All4Labels Group, things are still a bit different, even though the group founded Palamo, a start-up for online sales, in the spring of 2021. How does that fit together?
Stefan Harder: We naturally want to strengthen the group idea and ideally try to roll it out via a platform. This is where we can ideally support Palamo as an online distributor. And in general, all the companies in the group can learn a lot from each other.
I don’t believe that a conventional print shop can easily become an online company. Because online, the mindset, has to be in the DNA and if I have a conventional DNA, I won’t easily make an online DNA out of it. But there are modules, there are topics and many other areas where you can cooperate very well with each other – after all, we are very software-savvy and strongly positioned and can contribute accordingly.
Beyond Print: While some classic print shops have suffered badly from the pandemic, business in the label and packaging market has actually picked up. How have Labelprint24 and Packaging Warehouse fared in recent months?
Stefan Harder: There has been a great deal of movement away from stationary retail in the direction of online – in normal consumption, but also in packaging. The speeds, flexibility and product extensions that we have recently initiated have certainly played a big role here. In the last two years, we’ve actually been “struggling” more with growth and everything that goes with it, including finding new employees.
We’ve added flexible packaging this year, we’ve invested in corrugated direct printing, and laminated corrugated is coming next. In some cases, we are investing in completely new product areas. Similar to what we have already done with labels and folding cartons, we also want to further expand the areas of flexible packaging and corrugated board.
A new hall for corrugated board printing has already been rented and occupied. There are digital printing and laminating machines, as well as die cutters and everything else you need for production. But we are currently expanding by a good 10,000 m2 and then want to broaden the product range in this area as well.
Beyond Print: At the fall conference of the Initiative Online Print (IOP), it was reported that more and more industrial companies are using direct links to online print shops via closed-shop integration. Is this development also being felt in online packaging and label printing?
Stefan Harder: We produce a great many orders from small customers, but also for colleague companies. That runs almost exclusively via the online store. But we actually also have more and more industrial customers that we connect directly to our system via an interface, in other words, not via the online store. These industrial customers can thus place orders, query prices, and in principle use the complete functionality of our system.
However, we cannot say that the number of connected industrial customers has increased during the pandemic, because we have been experiencing this development for years. Every year, we connect one, two or three large customers via an interface. Of course, this is not worthwhile for every customer. But for those who have small-scale orders with thousands of different designs, language versions and different formats, it’s important to automate as much as possible. After that, you “only” have to produce.
Beyond Print: What will your collaboration within the All4Labels Global Packaging Group look like in the future?
Stefan Harder: In the end, it’s about a kind of multi-brand strategy: someone searches for packaging on the Internet and ideally finds one of the All4Labels brands. Each of the companies has a slightly different strategy in terms of depth, explanations, marketing strategy or customer orientation. So I think each one also finds its target group.
The All4Labels Group has many production sites. Therefore, we now have the opportunity to access these other production sites and integrate their technologies into our systems, i.e. into our intelligent calculators. We calculate every product live, and the more processes are stored in the system, the more we can offer the customer. So also, flexo, gravure or offset printing. Everything is possible and that is why we will continue to expand this integration over the next few years. Our aim is to serve the market holistically as an online packaging provider.
Beyond Print: In your opinion, what developments can we expect in online printing in the coming months, especially in the packaging market?
Stefan Harder: I think in the packaging market, more and more conventional packaging printers will push into the online market, simply because they can’t get around the topic. There is a change taking place at the moment that I believe is unstoppable. I assume that more and more products will be available online, that more and more will be standardized. I believe that if you do it well, you can be very successful online.
But online also means a change for the customer. Those who were used to receiving their proofs in various versions via PDF, printing them out, scanning them, and sending them back, will have to get used to it. After all, when customers order online, they too have to learn to follow the paths laid down by the online provider.
Beyond Print: Thank you very much for the fascinating interview!