Paper, office and stationery products - the name used to say it all. In the meantime, the stationery industry is undergoing an image change in many ways. The rapidly changing spirit of the times, changing lifestyles and the New Work, finally the imperative of sustainability as well as new laws and regulations - these parameters have been forcing the market-shaping companies to rethink for some time. The result of this process: The self-image of the stationery industry today goes far beyond its once narrowly defined core areas and competencies.
Sibylle Dorndorf talked to Volker Jungeblut, Managing Director of the Association of the Stationery Brand Industry, about what moves companies beyond this transformation and keeps them on their toes. He is regarded as a proven "brand man". His many years of experience in the industry in leading positions for well-known companies such as Filofax, Pelikan and Montblanc gave him expertise and a distinct understanding of the value and significance of a brand.
Sibylle Dorndorf: Mr. Jungeblut, times are changing faster than ever before, and companies face new challenges almost every day. How important is association work today?
Volker Jungeblut: More important than ever! The many different legislative projects and regulations at EU level in particular represent a major challenge for all medium-sized companies. We provide support here to help our members with implementation.
Sibylle Dorndorf: What do you see as the primary mission of the Stationery Brand Association in these times?
Volker Jungeblut: Networking in the industry and the exchange of experience among members remain the top priority. Statistics - within the framework of antitrust regulations - also give our members an overview of the market and its development. This also allows us to determine whether our own strategy still holds promise for the future or whether adjustments are necessary.
Sibylle Dorndorf: In a study, Marketmedia24 predicted growth until 2030. Is this realistic and how does the stationery industry currently stand?
Volker Jungeblut: In the first half of the year, we recorded moderate growth in sales. In part, our members have already reached or even exceeded the 2019 figures. But - sales figures are only part of the truth. In almost all divisions we have to factor in price increases, based on the massive rise in costs for materials, energy, transport, etc. Even though the prices of the aforementioned are softening again or have softened to some extent, the overall cost structure remains considerably above the years before Corona and Russia's war of aggression on Ukraine. The increased costs have been factored into the calculation and the products have to flow out first. Everyone should be aware that at the moment there is still a strong price consciousness among consumers and spending on "nice to have" products is done with restraint. In the long term, I believe that Marketmedia24's market research is correct and can give us hope.
Sibylle Dorndorf: Is growth generated from increased consumer prices or are price increases not as relevant in the stationery industry?
Volker Jungeblut: At the moment, it is more likely that much of the growth has been caused by price increases. But there are many exceptions of brand manufacturers who have launched new products at the right time and naturally benefit from this growth.
Sibylle Dorndorf: The Supply Chain Act and still no end in sight: The legal situation is particularly challenging for small and medium-sized companies. How can the association support them here?
Volker Jungeblut: We are not only in contact with other associations regarding the Supply Chain Act and of course also with Brussels directly. Some of the laws have been passed and are therefore fact. We have already presented implementation measures for our members and will do the same for the other regulations coming from Brussels. The Packaging Ordinance is one example of many; small and medium-sized enterprises will be strongly challenged. We are preparing appropriate seminars to explain to manufacturers the measures that will be necessary in the foreseeable future and are exerting influence in Brussels to the extent of our possibilities in order to prevent anything worse from happening.
Sibylle Dorndorf: You are presenting a sustainability report with the association. How sustainable are the companies in the stationery industry already acting?
Volker Jungeblut: We already have members that are Co2 neutral, as well as a variety of member activities that build on sustainable company policies. Our members realize that it's not enough to generate company electricity sustainably. Sustainability starts with product development. Procurement, transport routes, energy consumption et cetera - in principle, there is no area of the company that is not checked for sustainability and changed accordingly.
Sibylle Dorndorf: The stationery industry doesn't seem very trend-driven, that may be deceiving. Question for you as an insider: Are there any groundbreaking innovations?
Volker Jungeblut: New Work in all its facets, AI, sustainability are all factors that massively affect our industry. From the outside, the name stationery alone is not necessarily a driver of innovation. The industry as such is underestimated. We're not just on the ball when it comes to trendy colors, but our products are changing office workflows, repurposing materials in sustainable ways, driving automation down to the last detail, and much more. Trends are a big part of our business and vital to the industry's survival.
Sibylle Dorndorf: Which brings us to the retail sector: How is the stationery retail sector preparing for the future in the face of negative consumer sentiment?
Volker Jungeblut: I wouldn't go so far as to call consumer sentiment negative. Caution and restraint on spending that is not absolutely necessary would be my choice. The stationery trade is also sensitive enough to feel the change. That the consumer approach needs to change is something pretty much everyone understands. Although many have been practicing it for some time. The building blocks are online stores, service-friendliness, ensuring availability of goods, attractive presentation on- and offline, and much more. And of course, there is always the consideration - what fits into my portfolio as a supplementary assortment - how do I distinguish myself positively in the market? "Retail is change" is a bit of an outdated saying, but it's still true.
Sibylle Dorndorf: Mr. Jungeblut, thank you for the informative interview.
The Association of the Stationery Brand Industry represents the interests of the currently 40 manufacturers of school articles, office equipment, presentation and communication products, organizational aids, writing and drawing instruments and supplies, calendars and albums, greeting cards, labels and related products in Germany and its neighboring countries. Today, the market for these products for leisure, school and office knows about 300 manufacturers, among them about 50 well-known brands and almost 2,000 office supplies and stationery retailers. Total sales amount to around 7 billion euros.
About the author:
Sibylle Dorndorf has been writing about the toy industry for almost 30 years. Most recently, the journalist was editor-in-chief of the TOYS magazine family at Göller Verlag, Baden-Baden.
Her passion: companies that reinvent themselves, brands that position themselves credibly, people who have something to say and products with a future.