Louise Unsworth, Business Unit Manager, Brother UK, examines the new applications buoying the labelling category which are providing resellers with opportunities to supply low to high-end devices
Keep your distance, wash your hands, please wear a mask. We’ve all become used to finding these instructions at every turn, gently reminding us about the part each of us plays in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
As we emerged from lockdown, businesses quickly kitted-out premises with signage and guidance to keep employees and customers safe and comply with government guidelines. From April to June, we saw sales of app-driven and Wi-Fi connected labellers increase by 74 per cent compared to the same period last year – as partners helped a wide range of organisations in making their offices and workspaces COVID-secure.
But while we expect this demand to continue as businesses react quickly to changes in government guidance; trends in home organisation, incoming food safety regulations and the growth in click and collect services are also buoying the category and providing new avenues for resellers to support their customers.
Safety labels and home organisation
While many companies have re-opened their doors, the opportunity to help them with their signage needs is far from over. The government guidelines are constantly evolving, forcing businesses to keep signage updated – whether it’s to enforce distancing measures or to remind people when face coverings are required. Having a labelling device on-site provides firms with a fast, convenient way to respond to changes, which may need to be implemented overnight.
There are also several sectors and industries, from education to sport and gambling, which are still to re-open. Schools, for example, will need to overhaul the way that equipment is used and managed to reduce the risk of contact transmission. This will require adequate labelling and signage to identify certain equipment to classrooms or students, instructions for hygiene and to direct people around their buildings.
Alongside supporting businesses, opportunities lie in the consumer market as people spend more time at home. Our research found that 53 per cent of office workers want to continue working remotely, which may see a permanent increase in demand for labelling devices to help with home organisation projects.
We’re finding that customers aren’t defaulting to the cheapest option either. Businesses and consumers are opting for mid-range devices like our QL printers that feature Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection and are used via desktop and mobile apps. They also offer customisable templates which are enabling businesses to make their own COVID signage, ensuring they can inject some personality and humour, where appropriate.
Rising demand for high-range devices
But alongside the societal changes that COVID-19 has created, there are also new regulations which labelling vendors and partners will need to support businesses across food retail, hospitality and leisure in preparing for.
A recent update to the Food Information Regulations 2019, more commonly known as Natasha’s Law, is set to come into force in England on 1 October 2021. The reforms cover labelling requirements for foods that are prepared and packed on the same premises from which they are sold, such as a packaged sandwich or salad made by an employee and placed on a shelf for purchase. The new regulations will enforce clear signposting of what food contains and what it has been in contact with. This is essential to consumer safety; we need to know when it’s safe to eat and if it’s safe for those with allergies.
Separately, approximately 90 per cent of businesses are still handwriting ‘day-dot’ labels as part of their stock rotation according to our research. This is leaving room for error, where food that’s unsafe could be sold and consumed.
A more accurate approach to food labelling, both in the kitchen and at point of sale, will pay dividends when it comes to consumer safety, helping build trust and loyalty longer-term too.
Working alongside our partners, we’ve also secured contracts to supply label printers to major canteen operators in offices and hospitals, helping them to introduce click and collect services to curb queuing and maintain social distancing on-site.
Having the tools to solve customer needs
From food safety compliance to meeting COVID-19 regulations, there are numerous opportunities for the channel to support customers by supplying low to high-end label solutions, from the right hand-held device to waterproof tapes.
We’ll be working by the side of our partners, so they have all the tools they need to meet the growing number of applications. Remember to keep your distance, wash your hands and please wear a mask!