By Melissa Donovan
Integrating digital print into an organization’s supply chain, whether internally or through a print provider, changes the way it operates. The technology impacts marketing channels, opening doors for the introduction of new products.
While analog technologies like flexography are still advantageous for longer print runs, brands with multiple SKUs of products might look to digital to focus on smaller, more variable print runs. If this works well, the adoption of digital creates a trickle effect, creating the opportunity for shorter runs—as small as one—featuring personalization and customization.
An Original Transformed
In business since 1969, Yankee Candle Company, Inc. operates its corporate headquarters in South Deerfield, MA. Part of Newell Brands, it employs thousands of people worldwide. It offers scented candles, home fragrances, auto fragrances, and home décor through a wholesale customer network of close to 35,000 store locations, with more than 500 company owned and operated retail stores.
Candles are offered in a variety of jar sizes and fragrance options. In an average month Yankee Candle produces over 600,000 candles, each of which requires a polyurethane label. The company evaluated its label production in 1998 and decided to adopt digital.
According to Dana Springfield, GM of consumer direct, Yankee Candle, the ability to print on demand and avoid plate charges contributed to the attraction of digital print. The technology was finally at a point where it could offer high-quality output at an efficient pace. By 2006, digital was a significant print method for the company’s candle labels.
Direct to Consumer
In 2008, one service Yankee Candle offered was personalized votive candles for weddings, birthdays, and other events in addition to its products sold in the store. The graphics were static—meaning customers could pick from a few select images and add text. In response to multiple requests, the company began allowing customers to add photographs to these labels.
Yankee Candle researched digital printers that could match the quality of the labels found on its stock candles, unfortunately at that time, the cost was still too high to commit to a machine of that caliber. Farming out the work wasn’t a favorable alternative, either. “We didn’t want to outsource these requests, as the customers ordering them wanted them quickly,” explains Springfield.
Despite the concern, the company decided to go the route of outsourcing. It found a printer in Tulsa, OK willing to work with them through a once-per-week batch program. Due to the nature of the turnaround, the candle manufacturer only took orders for these requests over the phone and didn’t heavily promote the service. Yankee Candle was up front that the orders would have a two week turnaround and although the customers loved the quality, they became frustrated with how long it took to receive the final product.
Six years later, in 2014, the consumer direct group revisited possible digital printers for consumer direct orders. This time it found Primera Technology, Inc., specifically the manufacturer’s CX1200 Digital Color Label Press and FX1200 Digital Finishing System. The output mimicked the production environment of the traditional candles at a reasonable cost.
The CX1200 features 1,200×1,200 dpi print resolution at print speeds of 16.25 feet per minute. According to Primera, a user can print up to 1,250 feet at a time, which equals a 12-inch diameter roll. Labels up to 8.5 inches wide are possible. The FX1200 is the ideal complement to the CX1200. The offline finisher offers laminating, die cutting, slitting, and rewinding of finished rolls.
Purchased in early 2015, the Primera CX1200 and FX1200 presented the team with a few challenges to overcome. These included working with temperatures to get the ink adhesion on the label material just right. By Summer 2015 the product was ready to offer to customers and the company launched its online ordering platform in September 2015. Six Primera systems support the consumer direct part of the business today.
The online design and ordering tool is user friendly. Customers select one of the fragrances available—some are available year round, whereas others are seasonal.
Personalized candles are available in price breaks dependent on quantity—one to five, six to 11, 12 to 23, and over 24. Springfield has witnessed orders come in as large as 5,000 for companies looking to gift a customized candle with their logo at a retreat or event. Sometimes orders in that volume range may get switched over to one of the digital presses at Yankee Candle’s primary print supplier—Dow Industries, located in Wilmington, MA. Here the labels are printed on an HP Indigo digital press from HP, Inc.
To the Stores
When business exploded online in 2015, Yankee Candle began discussing ways to introduce on demand, small run, personalized printing into its retail store locations. This idea waited on the backburner for two years until a point where the costs came down to a level where the company felt it was appropriate to consider an investment in its in-store digital printing capabilities.
“The quality in those printers was there, but we needed to print on a poly-substrate, label-like material and still achieve a toner adherence similar to the labels on the candles purchased in store—all cost effectively,” admits Springfield.
That breakthrough came in 2017, when it found OKI Data Americas’ C532dn color printer. The device offers the flexibility to print on heavier and larger stocks with a scalable paper capacity up to 1,410 sheets. For Yankee Candle’s retail locations, blank labels—material with a white base and already coated—are mailed to the store in 4×6-inch sheets and pre-die cut to the correct label size. A store employee places the label material in the printer tray and presses print when a personalized order is requested at the retail location.
In-store label personalization capabilities launched in April 2017. At press time 90 percent of the Yankee Candle retail stores offer the service. Response has been favorable. “We are very pleased with both the sales and positive response from our customers. They are thrilled to be able to walk in with a gift idea and within minutes have a personal and unique gift,” shares Springfield.
Yankee Candle is successful in its implementation of digitally printed labels across its brand, starting at the top with its traditional candle offerings and allowing the benefits of digital to influence its consumer direct side online. From there, the company was able to introduce personalized labels in store, the same day, and continues to look for new ways to use digital in its product offerings. “We are exploring other products where digital printing technology can apply and are excited about the opportunities to provide unique offerings to our customers,” concludes Springfield.
July2017, DPS Magazine