Fred Conway founded Discount Labels in 1965 in the basement of his home. Today, the company operates from a 200,000-square-foot facility, but its founder’s business philosophy of offering outstanding customer service, quality products and great value remains the cornerstone of Discount Labels and the reason for the relationships it has developed over the past half-century.
“The company still holds true to the founding principles, and that’s [thanks to] our people,” says Mike Gore, vice president of operations. Gore was hired by Conway in 1991 and says the founder highly valued innovation, too. “It’s very important to us to stay in front of the market,” Gore says.
Discount Labels has 75 presses at its New Albany, Ind., facility located across the Ohio River from Louisville, Ky. As a result, the company offers a wide spectrum of short-, medium- and long-run custom labels including full-color prime labels for consumer packaging, durable labels, variable-image and data labels, consecutive number labels and security labels.
“We’re always reinvesting in the company,” says Gore, who adds that nearly all of the presses were built or modified in-house.
The company’s product offerings weren’t always so extensive. Discount Labels got its start when Conway created the emergency telephone stickers that were shipped with phones throughout the country in the 1960s and 1970s. The stickers were designed to feature the emergency phone numbers of local fire and police departments. Conway, who spent time as a volunteer fire chief, conceived the idea for the stickers when he learned of an incident when a person called the wrong fire department during an emergency, Gore says.
From those beginnings, Discount Labels emerged as the largest custom label printer in the country. “Things kind of exploded from there,” Gore says. “The market has changed, and we have changed with it.”
Today, Discount Labels provides labels to a variety of industries including health and beauty, food and beverage, automotive, healthcare and medical, warehousing and distribution and education. The company’s success lies in its versatility. Discount Labels can process most label orders in 24 hours and offers thousands of standard die shapes and sizes, as well as more than 70 standard paper stocks. Discount Labels also produces packaging labels and political campaign bumper stickers, Gore says.
Additionally, the company makes custom-printed packaging tape and consecutive number labels. It also is an authorized Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label supplier.
“We serve a lot of different vertical markets,” Gore says.
As a trade-only label printer, the company works with a national network of more than 27,000 print, packaging and promotional distributors to deliver quality labels to customers. Because its success is so closely tied to its distributors’ performance, Discount Labels takes extra steps to put them in the best position to excel. For example, the company’s comprehensive tools and resources section on its website contains sales and marketing videos, sales sheets, sales tools, how-to guides, label training and other valuable information for distributors.
Discount Labels has continually enhanced its education program over the past few years and will continue to provide value-added services to help its distributors achieve sales success, Gore says.
This approach is nothing new. For five decades, Discount Labels has remained dedicated to helping distributors sell more labels. Early on, custom labels were relatively simple in design and construction. Today, however, custom labels include a plethora of new features such as double-sided printing, cold-foil, variable-image and data, security features, instant redeemable coupons (IRC) and booklet construction, scratch-off finishes, weather-proof labels, removable adhesives, durable labels that rival screen-printing, and retail kits, Gore explains.
Discount Labels works to remain relevant to distributors by building a platform for growth that allows it to pursue bigger and more varied opportunities. The company is constantly in touch with its vendor partners to identify equipment and capabilities that will enhance its offerings.
Recently, for example, the company complemented its growing digital-printing capabilities with the addition of an ABG DigiLase laser die cutter. The die cutter was installed to handle the growing volume of uniquely shaped prime and custom labels. As a result, Discount Labels can quickly print and finish AnyShape™ labels. No special tooling or dies are required.
Expertise is Key
Discount Labels’ expertise is a key driver behind its success. Members of the management team have an average tenure of 23 years with the company, Gore says. They, in turn, work closely with the company’s team of 500 engineers, production managers, R&D and pricing specialists, and press operators to produce high-quality custom labels with a combination of speed and service. The breadth of the company’s platform allows it to engineer unique label products for customers, he adds.
Discount Labels is adapting to changes in the marketplace; specifically, clients’ growing preference for just-in-time inventory, Gore says. In the past, some customers would place orders for hundreds of thousands of labels. “Today, no one wants one million labels sitting on a shelf somewhere,” Gore says. “It changes our priorities. The market changes every day.”
Although Discount Labels has been in the market for 50 years, the company routinely tells customers not to be misguided by its legacy or the word “discount” in its name. Rather, it is continually focused on integrating state-of-the-art equipment into a finely tuned system of customer service, production and quality-assurance processes to deliver quality and speed at an incredible value, Gore says.
Discount Labels earned its leadership position in the market because it offers a variety of products and works closely with customers to achieve solutions, Gore says. Most competitors specialize in a specific printing platform or type of label. Conversely, Discount Labels positions itself as a problem-solver that sizes up the label application, materials needed and best solution for any customer. “There aren’t too many label companies that can compete with us on this level for service and expertise,” Gore says.
Expertise, skills and training are the primary attributes that help the Discount Labels’ team continually achieve success. Newly hired customer service representatives, order processors, R&D specialists and members of its post-sale customer care center receive at least six weeks of immersion classroom training once hired, followed by weeks of highly supervised training with customers. The company also offers ongoing organic learning through suppliers, special projects and the constant flow of knowledge and expertise from managers, supervisors and engineers, the company says.
“We want our distributors to sell with total confidence, so we place a very high importance on staying on top of our craft through formal and informal training,” Gore says. “We want to present customers the very best ideas and solutions for each label project, depending on their objective.”