Helloprint "back on track", makes pricing pledge

Scheffer: UK market is the most challenging due to virus and Brexit
Scheffer: UK market is the most challenging due to virus and Brexit

Helloprint CEO Hans Scheffer has said the business is “back on track” after securing fresh funding and having “fought day and night to survive” over the past few months.

Earlier this year the print aggregator experienced a massive drop-off in sales and asked its print suppliers to help it survive by either accepting a percentage of what they were currently owed, or a deferred payment of the total amount plus interest, to be paid over five years.

Scheffer said that fresh funding of €5m (£4.5m) had been secured over the summer, and “everything is back on track”.

He described the “surreal” experience of seeing sales collapse by 90% as the pandemic hit business across the eight countries where Helloprint currently operates. Prior to Covid’s disastrous impact he said that the group had enjoyed a record three months.

"With our team, we literally fought day and night for months to survive. Our entire management, together with our existing investors and our house bank, made a very significant investment into the company to ensure that the company could get through the crisis,” Scheffer stated.

Helloprint does not have any production facilities of its own. Scheffer said that one of the actions taken was consultation with its hundreds of suppliers across Europe, including several in the UK.

“Yes, it was unusual to talk about deferments. Of course, there were parties who found this difficult and were initially not positive and did not understand. But we told the honest story and in the course of the weeks, we also saw the seriousness of the crisis descending within our network.

“Ultimately, 97% of our partners understood and respected our position, a position where we wanted to achieve the best solution for everyone, instead of taking an easy path,” he said

Scheffer said that while demand in general was recovering the UK market was “the biggest challenge” for the business due to the combined effects of the pandemic with ongoing Brexit worries.

“We see that the UK is struggling to recover from the Covid-19 crisis in combination with Brexit uncertainty,” he stated.

“Where revenues are back on regular levels in our most mature countries, our revenue in the UK is still behind last year. With the introduction of new product groups that are less corona impacted, we hope to turn that tide.” 

He said that the Helloprint team had used the hiatus to carry out development work on its software platform and API, and the group would now be pushing its Helloprint Connect reseller platform and PrintMatch service for large buyers.

He also made a bold claim on low pricing, even though Helloprint competes with other trade printers that run their own production facilities.

“We are going to guarantee our resellers that when they order through Connect, they will always have the lowest price in Europe. That is a promise that no one else in the market can make, but we can because of the large network we have,” he stated.

“Due to our large volume and the strong technical capabilities the algorithm within our platform is offering, we're able to optimise the best combination of producer and carrier, unlike others. We have invested significantly in our technical capabilities in this and we're continuously optimise pricing, delivery times, purchasing and logistics, which differs us from other parties who are focusing on their production capabilities," Scheffer told Printweek.

He said that September trading had recovered to around 75%-80% of previous levels, depending upon each country’s situation, and he believed that a similar reduction was likely to be the norm “for the entire industry” in the coming year, with areas such as promotional events and exhibitions stalled.

"Even with this lower revenue, we are running around break even and have had no state support for a number of months. We pay our partners on very short payment terms,” he said.

Demand for some products, including labels and packaging, and stickers and signage has gone up due to the pandemic.

Scheffer said that innovation was the key to future success, and the firm planned to roll out its platform across Europe next year.

“Only companies that invest in product and process innovation and those who dare to take far-reaching decisions will make it.

“Sometimes I hear a lot of doom and gloom in our industry, but our industry has always survived. Certainly in the UK but in many European countries, we see such wonderful, innovative companies that are constantly reinventing themselves. That will also work this time, I am convinced. The graphics sector will continue to thrive”.

Helloprint is headquartered in the Netherlands and employs nearly 200 staff. Prior to the pandemic the business had been on course to achieve sales of around €65m.