Just over a year after its formal launch in Europe, Goldstar already enjoys a high level of recognition within the industry – the ingredients of their recipe for success: a wide assortment of writing instruments, a smart service package and a good dose of Irish flair.
Anyone who visited the big trade fairs in Great Britain, France and Germany last year couldn’t fail to notice the name Goldstar. In addition to the shows, sales teams of long-serving industry professionals made sure that the new name became well-known among the broad masses. Many industry players would certainly be surprised if they were to visit the “newcomer” at its head office. The latter is located in Dundalk, Ireland, roughly half way between Dublin and Belfast, and both its size and capabilities are most impressive: The complex comprising of offices, a warehouse, a picking and packing department and the customising department covers a surface area of around 120,000 square feet (approx. 11,150 m²) and is simultaneously the European headquarters of National Pen International.
The American corporation, based in San Diego, California has been active on the promotional products market since its foundation in 1966, and with a total global annual turnover of 250 mil. US Dollars (approx. 237 mil. Euros), it is anything but a small player. In 2014, the company was in fact awarded “Irish Exporter of the Year“ by the Irish Exporters Association. Over 800 employees work in Dundalk alone in the peak season. And yet one hardly hears the name National Pen on the promotional products market – but this is partly due to the company’s sales structure and the niche market that it serves. “National Pen is a direct-mail business that specialises in small quantity orders to small and micro sized end-user companies,” explained Colin Loughran, General Manager of Goldstar Europe. “For example: their typical customers are butchers, hairdressers and plumbers who are ordering branded products. In recent years however, a growing demand among trade distributors for National Pen’s products has led to the birth of Goldstar – a specialist trade arm with trade pricing and healthy product margins to supply distributor market demand. The business model is working well because there is minimal crossover between National Pen and Goldstar, and critically, distributors are always guaranteed a better price”.
Goldstar was founded originally in the USA to serve the North American distributor market. Goldstar Europe began working with French distributors in 2012 from its Dundalk office up until 2014, when they recruited an experienced team and formally launched in the markets of France, Germany, UK and Ireland. In recent months Goldstar has also started serving the promotional products markets in Austria and Switzerland, with a launch in Italy also in the pipeline. Due to rapid growth Goldstar’s European team has more than doubled up to 25 employees within one year, and they now have ambitious plans to expand their business right across Europe and into Asia within a few years.
Loughran, who has played a significant role in growing the Goldstar business since 2013, knowswhat he is talking about: He worked for the “other side” for ten years, namely for Mace Promotions, one of Ireland’s largest promotional products distributors. Using the knowledge he gained as a distributor, Goldstar Europe is developing a service portfolio which is tailor-made to meet the needs of the promotional products trade. The key aspect hereby: simplicity. “Many suppliers price by four decimals, on top of that there is the handling fee, set-up costs and complex or delayed freight prices. Ask most distributors and they’ll tell you that they dislike the standard pricing convention for our industry because it’s time consuming and confusing, yet their customers need and expect fast pricing. Distributors are incredibly busy so we believe they appreciate quick and simple solutions with fewer headaches.“ “The customer feedback on our ‘all inclusive’ pricing policy is very exciting,” added Goldstar Operations Manager, Susan Kieran. “We charge our distributors one simple price for our product including set-up costs, customisation and delivery to anywhere in Western Europe.”
Promotional products distributors have a wide selection of products to choose from when putting together their personal line-up: The Goldstar collection encompasses a selection of writing instrument models, divided up into the product lines Full-Colour, Metal, Stylus, Plastic and Eco- Friendly. Different sets and give-aways such as key pendants, notepads or mini torches enhance the programme.
Many of the writing instruments are produced and assembled in their Tennessee and Tijuana/ Mexico factories before being decorated in Ireland: “In Tennessee, where we primarily manufacture our Full Colour models, we can produce up to 600,000 pens a day,” explained Loughran. “We also import many writing instruments from China, where we have several offices.“ Goldstar Europe always guarantees high deliverability and according to Loughran they hold significant stocks on key product lines. Depending on the model, the minimum order volume varies between 100 and 250 pieces.
The company can also fall back on a powerful infrastructure when it comes down to imprinting the items. According to own sources, around 75 million writing instruments were customised in Dundalk in 2014. “At all times, the processing and shipment of Goldstar orders takes top priority as well as undergoing significantly stricter quality checks,“ said Kieran.
The laser engraving department in Dundalk boasts some of the industry’s biggest outfits of YAG and CO2 machines. “We have invested around 2 million Euros in laser machines over the past two years, we will have installed 42 new machines by the end of the year, and we’re confident we have Europe’s largest capacity when it comes to metal decoration,” reported Loughran. “We can laser engrave up to 1.2 million writing instruments a day, and up to 8.4 million a week“. Not only metal models, but also items with a rubber or soft-touch finish can be lasered in a high-resolution process. Goldstar Europe has additionally developed its own 360° laser rotation technology: “Our new rotation technology enables metal pens to be customised with an all-round laser engraving, at what we believe to be a game-changing price. Many companies are not able to carry out 360° laser engravings and even if they can, their prices are up to four times more expensive.“
The second core competence in the customising area is full-surface foil printing with a capacity of up to 1 mil. pieces a week. Firstly, the special foils are digitally imprinted in the company’s own studio, the foil is subsequently placed around the barrel of the writing instrument using the shrink process. The result is a high-resolution, brilliant, durable and yet low-priced full-surface decoration. Pad and screen printing round off the customising options – Goldstar Europe recently purchased four brand new Ardenghi screen printing machine with an investment of around 350,000 Euros.
Each single writing instrument undergoes a stringentquality control after being imprinted, before being prepared for dispatch in an automated packing line. Depending on the order volume, the production process takes between one and three days after print approval for metal writing instruments and up to five days for plastic models. “We also have extensive graphics teams in Ireland, India, the Philippines and USA, all servicing Goldstar. This enables us to provide a best-inclass artwork service which includes virtual mockups as a sales tool for our distributors within 24 hours, or the same day if urgent“. Last, but not least Goldstar Europe grants its trade partners a standard term of payment of 60 days. Overall, it’s a service package that the trade evidently appreciates, if the success the company has enjoyed in the market so far is anything to go by. “In the last year we increased our turnover by around 250%,” said Loughran. “We now have ambitious expansion plans: For example, the surface for the existing production is to be expanded, the shipping line is to be upgraded and enlarged, further fields of activity are additionally planned: We already customise mugs using the sublimation printing technology on a small scale and we are now ready to invest significantly in this area too“.
In spite of all the expansion plans, the business is by no means just about prices, margins anddelivery times, as Goldstar Europe recently demonstrated at the PSI Show at the beginning of the year: As the industry’s only Ireland based supplier, the Goldstar team showed their gratitude to their new partners with an Irish partyin the Old Town of Düsseldorf – and literally brought a huge portion of traditional Irish joy of life with them, which in the day-to-day business also no doubt contributed towards Goldstar’s last year being a successful one.