Is It Cheaper To Print Your Own Labels or Buy Them?
If you're needing to source labels for the first time, it can be a dilemma deciding whether to buy your own equipment to produce them inhouse or outsource them to a professional label printer.
In this blog post we will breakdown what resources you will need for each and then summarise the pros and cons of each option. Every application will be different so it's important to weigh up these factors based on your business needs.
Printing Your Own Labels
What you need:
Printer and Consumables (eg. ink)
Plain Labels on Sheets or Rolls
Label Printing Software (this may come free with some printers)
Desktop printers can typically cost anywhere from a few hundred pounds to a few thousand, with the quality and durability typically increasing the more you spend. One popular choice is inkjet machines such as Memjet or Epson Colorworks printers.
These machines print at a reasonable speed and are great for printing images or other designs which don't involve large blocks of a single colour. They can also print onto a range of coated materials including glossy papers and waterproof stocks like polypropylene.
Another option is laser printers which use toner to print onto rolls or pre-cut A4 label sheets. These machines can have a high DPI and can also print onto a range of papers and other materials. Be careful to make sure you are buying the correct sheets for these printers as sheets which are suitable for inkjet printers won't be suitable for laser machines.
As with all printers it's important to check not only how much the printer costs but also the potential cost of the ink and any other consumables.
Pros of Inhouse Printing:
Fast and responsive turnaround which is useful for unexpected demand if you have many different SKUs.
Cheaper for very short runs as avoiding minimum order charges from label printers.
Increased customisation including batch numbers, best before dates etc.
Cons of Inhouse Printing:
High initial expenditure to invest in a printer.
Quality inferior to professional printers and may not be suitable for durable applications.
No option for embellishments or protective finishes such as varnish or lamination.
For medium-long runs unit costs are higher.
Printing can be a time consuming process both processing artwork, troubleshooting and printing the labels themselves.
Outsourcing to a Professional Label Printer
What you need:
If you wish to outsource your label printing you will need to invest in the following:
1. Professional artwork (typically in PDF format with bleed etc.)
2. New cutters or print plates may be required on first order.
Professional label printers will have a range of different print processes to suit your needs. This may include digital print, flexo print plus other options including hot foil stamping or screen printing for embellishments.
From receipt of your enquiry the printer will offer advice on the right print process and materials to suit your requirements. They will then typically send you a quote with a range of different quantities to show how the unit cost per label will vary depending on quantity ordered. Generally the more you order the less you will pay per label as the setup charges of the printer are spread over a greater volume of labels.
The printer will need professional artwork (typically in PDF format) to produce an order but in some cases they may have an in-house design team that can help you put this together. You can then expect the labels within about a week and for quality assurance purposes the printer will keep a label sample to ensure colour matching on any repeat orders.
Pros of Outsourcing:
More finishes available including varnishing and lamination
More cost effective for medium to large run orders
Better print quality.
Professional advice and more material/adhesive options available
Cons of Outsourcing:
Longer lead time than printing yourself - industry average is around 7 working days (Crown Labels is typically only 4-5 working days)
Expensive for very short runs
Conclusion - What is the best option for your labels?
As you can appreciate from the information above, there are a whole host of factors to consider when deciding whether or not to print labels in house or not.
We would generally recommend that for all point of sale labelling where the label is the main marketing tool for your brand, you should go for a professional printer. This will allow you to get the best print quality and finish options available to attract new customers and strengthen your branding through colour consistency.
However if the minimum order quantities you've received are too high for your needs, or you need the flexibility of printing on demand, then it could be worth considering a desktop label printer. It is important to do your homework on which printer to buy though and it is worth checking review outlets or even Youtube for advice.
For both options though, if you are selling a product you must put a realistic figure against the cost per label so you can understand the impact of these labelling costs on your margin. There may also be a swing point from which it is worth switching from printing in house to outsourcing in order to get your label unit cost down.
If you would like any further advice on outsourcing label printing then please don't hesitate to contact our team for more information!