The traditional brand Leitz has belonged to an American group since 1997. The classic means of regulation only make up about 40 percent of the business.
BWhen it comes to Leitz, one thinks of files. Leitz Acco Brands GmbH & Co. KG has a lot more products on offer. “As a brand, we are generally concerned with organizing work and the home,” says Ard-Jen Spijkervet, Managing Director of the Leitz brand and Vice President Central Europe of Leitz Acco. The long-established Stuttgart company has been part of the American Acco Brands group since 2017.
Louis Leitz founded the company in 1871 as a “workshop for the production of metal parts for organizing materials” after he had invented a simple folder. The first hole punch was sold in 1892 and the first classic folder in 1896. Today’s technology is largely the same as that of the original model; Except for the grip hole, hardly anything has been changed.
Leitz employs around 500 people in Germany and around 7,000 people work for the Acco Brands Group around the world. Leitz is headquartered in Stuttgart, production takes place in Uelzen in northern Germany, at ten other European locations, in the United States and Asia. Leitz brand products are sold all over the world, says Spijkervet.
The classic means of regulation still accounted for around 40 percent of the business. Other products are laminators, paper shredders, air purifiers and laptop bags. The range includes around 7500 items; the turnover amounts to about 300 million dollars in 2020, the equivalent of almost 250 million euros. The traditional products would be reinvented again and again. This includes the patented 180-degree mechanism, which makes it possible to file papers in the folder from both the left and right.
Spijkervet says that the company is clearly the market leader in Germany in the area of regulatory materials. “In 2019 we produced almost 100 million files.” According to the market research institute GfK, Leitz has a market share of 66 percent among manufacturer brands. An important competitor is the Berlin Pelikan Group, which includes brands such as Herlitz and Pelikan. It also counts itself among “the leading brand suppliers of quality products in the field of paper, office and stationery (PBS) as well as stationery”.
“We don’t want to be a mainstream brand,” says Spijkervet. A Leitz folder at Kaut-Bullinger, a company for office supplies, costs between 3.63 euros for the classic cardboard folder and 15 euros for special models with several lever mechanisms for private customers.
Open and close 12,000 times
When it comes to competition from low-cost providers, Spijkervet is calm: “Our folder costs twice as much as a folder from a discounter. You can open and close ours 12,000 times without bending anything or the folder falling over when full. “
Leitz Acco Brands have “a particularly wide variety of products,” says Robert Stefani, Head of Marketing at Kaut-Bullinger. Most companies in the industry specialized in a few product groups. “In the premium segment, Leitz is a best seller and, as a high-quality supplier, is an integral part of the orders of many corporate customers and authorities.”
Volker Jungeblut, Managing Director of the Association of the PBS Brand Industry, which represents the interests of forty manufacturers from the paper, office and writing sectors, sees the trend to stand out from other brands with color and design. Spijkervet confirms this: “The working world and environment has changed. Ten years ago, punches and staplers were traditionally black or blue. At that point in time, we were the absolute trendsetter when we brought our products onto the market in fresh, bright colors. “
Skepticism towards stationery stores
The company now produces 100 different types of folder, including the “Active folder”. It is available from Kaut-Bullinger from around 9 euros. It is made from recycled material and has a round back. Because of its ergonomic shape, it is used by students and people who travel a lot for work.
The focus on design and colors helped Leitz during the Corona period, when many people work at home. “People today want products that not only work well, but also fit them and their surroundings like fashion,” says Spijkervet. Economically, 2020 was only a little worse than 2019; the decline in sales was 6 percent. The failure of standard products could be cushioned by other product categories such as air purifiers, laminators and design products.
Spijkervet is skeptical about the future of stationary retail. “It has to be more innovative and offer a different added value than e-commerce.” It is not enough to continue operating the small, dark shop on the corner. A mix is needed. “Proactively create incentives to buy, and if I don’t have an item in stock in the store, but can get it within four hours, then I’m suddenly a cool brick-and-mortar retailer.”
At Leitz, you don’t worry too much about the paperless office. So far, little has been felt from him. It was only because of the pandemic-related work in the home office that demand fell somewhat. Paper is hardly an active means of communication anymore. “But people still find it more enjoyable to read something on paper than on a screen, and they love paper as proof of their work,” says Spijkervet.
The article comes from the school project “Youth and Economy”, which the FAZ organizes together with the Association of German Banks.