2021 State of the Industry Report: Pandemic or Not, Labels Are Sticking Around for the Long Haul
From a global pandemic to a new administration, the past year was filled with attention-grabbing headlines. For Print+Promo Marketing’s 2021 State of the Industry report, we set out to learn more about the central issues currently affecting the print and promotional products industry, and find answers to questions like: Which vertical markets are poised for recovery and how does that impact the products distributors sell.
As part of our investigation, we reached out to experts in various market segments: printed forms, promotional products, labels, branded apparel and direct mail. Below is an excerpt from our conversation with Brian D. Gale, CEO of I.D. Images, Cleveland. Find out what he had to say about the current state of labels, shrinking lead times for materials, the exciting prospect of hybrid technology and more.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the label sector?
Brian D. Gale: Like every other industry, the label industry has seen its challenges during COVID. The industrial shutdown reduced demand and created challenges in our supply chain. The increase in shipping has created demand for variable information labels. COVID accelerated trends toward direct-to-consumer shipping and marketing.
What have lead times been like for materials? If delayed, how can distributors develop a contingency plan with their supplier partner?
BDG: Plan! The more lead time we have, the better we can guarantee supply. … We got spoiled by short lead times from suppliers. We are recommending customers order one to three weeks earlier than normal. And if they can provide a forecast of what they expect orders to look like in the next three to six months, that can help us best coordinate our supply chain, production and shipping schedules for the best cost.
With digital technology having advanced to a competitive level with offset and flexo, how can distributors use this technique to provide brands with not only something of significant value, but also a “wow” factor? Or, are there any other presses/technologies in the label space that you feel deserve attention?
BDG: The quality of digital printing gets better almost every day. The reality is most customers do not care how their labels are printed. They want them on time and printed correctly. We are really excited about hybrid technology, [which] combines two technologies, flexo and digital, in one platform. This combination enables the converter to offer customization, special effects and production efficiencies on one press. For example, you can print a label with variable information and multiple custom designs with a security coating, foil effect or spot ink while custom die cutting all inline. You have the efficiency of printing multiple special effects and variable information, while having a finished die-cut label coming off the press. This hybrid configuration greatly expands the creative opportunities for the label designer and end-user.
Right now, it feels impossible to predict anything, but what are your expectations for the short-term future of labels?
BDG: Labels continue to be an important part of packaging. They are critical for marketing, supply chain management and logistics. Look at any product you [get]—it has had various labels associated with it. I think the market will continue to grow and thrive.