The retail sector may be struggling during the recession, but print is helping many companies buck the trend with high-impact, highly effective in-store promotion and other marketing collateral. For any printer in the sector already - and for any eyeing the retail sector for expansion - being able to react to the demands of retailers is crucial to survival in this high-pressure area of print. So, for our retail special issue, we have spoken to three leading retailers to ascertain what exactly they need from their print supplier. Here's what they told us...
Ben Dix and Maria Feast are from the creative buying team at high-street cosmetics chain Lush
Here at Lush, we carry out all our design in house. We work directly with our printers to produce a wide variety of printed materials, including in-store signage, product labels, bags, gift tags and wrap and Lush Times, our seasonal newspaper-style catalogue publication.
As the product innovation at Lush is in house – we create and make our own perfume, products and fill, label and wrap our own product and gifts – we pride ourselves on our ability to react quickly to the fast-changing retail environment. We are able to introduce a new product to market with a fast turnaround and can run campaigns at short notice. Our printers work closely with us to achieve these timescales, without compromising on quality.
We source our print from a number of different suppliers, each with its own strengths in its particular product offering.
We pay particular attention to colour matching across all our designs, requesting proofs and attending press passes where appropriate. We have to work within the parameters of each printing method, encouraging innovation among our suppliers to achieve the best results possible.
With today’s technological developments, we are seeing excellent results both in digital and more traditional printing methods. We print all our material on 100% recycled stocks wherever possible, and encourage closed loop recycling schemes. We use both coated and uncoated recycled stock and are seeing some really impressive quality results, across a variety of printing methods.
Digital vs litho
A lot of our smaller-run work now gets printed digitally, especially where we are dealing with multiple languages for our labels and tags. We are impressed with the improving quality of digital and the growing range of stocks that can be run through the digital presses, particularly the uncoated recycled stocks. The minimal set-up costs and material wastage through the digital printing process appeals to us as a company, and we remain excited by environmental improvements and innovations in this area. However, the cost efficiency and quality offered by litho still remains unrivalled for our higher-volume runs, and we are seeing some equally exciting environmental and efficiency improvements in the field of litho.
Environmental elements, together with our policy against animal testing, are at the heart of our company ethos. We are always keen to work with our suppliers to reduce our impact on the environment and develop more sustainable business practices throughout the supply chain. We are fortunate to work with some very forward-thinking and environmentally conscious suppliers throughout our business.
As for print budgets, through innovation and creative solutions, we have worked closely with our suppliers to offset price increases we have seen in recent years. One example has been to switch to special makes of paper for our gift-wrap to help reduce waste and simultaneously reduce cost.
We keep the level of in-store promotion minimal, primarily A-boards, window displays and Lush Times. We use these to promote new products and raise awareness of our campaigns to our customers.
We enjoy talking to our customers in store rather than relying on promotional material alone to communicate for us and will maintain this position.
Our use of variable data therefore is minimal, as we are not involved in a lot of direct mailing. We do however mail out our lovely Lush Times newspapers to our customers to keep them up-to-date with news and product developments.
From our printers, the key is: providing a high quality of service at an attractive price, within agreed deadlines. We like to form a partnership relationship with our suppliers, where they can offer creative input and innovation to help improve the quality of our printed materials and to best meet our ethical and environmental standards.
Dan Silby is visual merchandising manager at retailer Oliver Bonas
We don’t run long leads in general; we all, me and the printer included, work to very short, quick timescales most of the time. Hence, to be a print supplier to Oliver Bonas, the ability to react with speed is very important. That said, the ability to handle larger, more long-term campaigns is also important. For large campaigns like, say, Christmas, we would not work in this short-term manner, this would be much more planned ahead and all POS and other printer material would have to be in place ready to go when we kick started the campaign, so reliability from a printer is a must.
At present, we do have some in-house print capability, but in the main we work with a single printer with which we have worked for some time. We have used it for a number of years and have a great relationship with it. Part of the longevity of this relationship is down to the fact we can rely on it every time for accurate colour printing. Colour accuracy is very important to Oliver Bonas, so we need a printer that can deliver that accuracy every time.
Quality is also, of course, very important and we are lucky that our printer delivers this to us for all our print work. We have a very close relationship and, on occasion, I even go to work in the printer’s studio, so any issues that do arise we can resolve very quickly because we have that close relationship.
"It’s all digital for us"
I would say it’s all digital print nowadays for us, or at least it starts off digital even if it may move into other areas if we find the requirements change, be that for run length or other factors.
The environment is obviously a big factor in every decision we make and, where possible, we use materials with low impact and if possible we design and produce POS that has a long life span or that can be re-used at other times.
I would say that the print spend at Oliver Bonas has been unchanged over the past two years, but I admit that I may have pushed for more discounts! We probably do not use as much print material as larger high-street retailers as we have a lot more quirky one off products that do not really fit the POS merchandising method. The ratio of print to product is therefore not very high – the
product itself usually does the talking and the overall visual package definitely comes before any POS we produce.
I would say the main attributes we are looking for in a printer are time, creativity, flexibility, good prices, quick turnaround and the ability to work at very short notice.
Sarah Walton is the print buyer at the UK arm of Japanese clothes retailer Uniqlo
We use printers for a whole range of products, including season campaign graphics, point of purchase, in-store signage, window vinyl decals, flyers and leaflets, promotional merchandise – for example Oyster card holders – and staff uniform T-shirts.
We run longer-term, seasonal, in-store campaigns – these generally last for two or three months – but as a fast-moving clothing retailer we must respond quickly to market conditions so it is really important that our printer can turn around POP jobs for us very quickly. Sometimes we only have a lead time of three days to get new POP to stores
We have two major suppliers, one for the large-format seasonal campaigns and one for everything else. The second supplier is able to react very quickly to our day-to-day needs.
Colour accuracy is very important for us and we receive match prints from our HQ in Tokyo so that we can ensure cohesive global branding.
The majority of our print is digital as we are still quite a small operation in the UK with 10 stores within the Greater London area.
While the environment is obviously a consideration for our print, at the moment, our focus is on quality and reliability of service, and value for money.
For our print products, we have increased our spend in the past two years as we have increased the amount of graphics used in store.
Print is a very important factor in our stores as we try to offer a self-service environment where customers feel that they are equipped with all the necessary information in order to make a purchasing decision. The information on offer ranges from the price and styling suggestion to the specific fabrication and design features. Print will continue to be an important tool to create this dialogue with our customers.