Signed, sealed and delivered

Refined through four generations of involvement in the paper and print industry, the story of Blake Envelopes is one of entrepreneurialism, innovation and a dedication to creating the best solutions for its customers

There are a number of ways we could find to articulate in words the scale of Blake Envelopes’ – a globally active envelope, paper and postal packaging business – activities, but sometimes numbers speak for themselves. Each year, the company sells approximately two billion envelopes, with one in eight of every envelope used in the UK being a Blake Envelopes creation. As a matter of fact, it has been calculated that if all of the envelopes manufactured by Blake were put end-to-end they would stretch to the moon and back a total of 13 times!

Starting in 2000 from a small attic space, today the company stocks more than 1600 products, including a wide selection of unique colours and finishes. A team of more than 70 men and women populate its headquarters in Yeovil, while additional offices can be found in London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds and Leicester. In 2018, it also established its first hub in the United States, in Ohio.

Offering a complete service – from initial design to printing and ultimately distribution – Blake Envelopes focuses on innovation and development, making sure that its high-quality product offering is unique, diverse and leaves a lasting impression, regardless of whether the order quantity totals 50 or 20 million products. “There is a famous saying that states, ‘when everyone else zigs, you zag’, and in a sense this is the approach we have always taken in our role as a ‘disrupter’, by which I mean being the entity that does things differently to everyone else,” explains Blake Envelopes’ Chief Executive Officer, Michael Barter. “As a company, we have long prospered by having strong liquidity, which means we are able to be extremely agile, able to make fast decisions, and seize opportunities where they present themselves.”

This agility and forward thinking mentality means that Blake Envelopes has become an expert when it comes to reading the market and the latest trends. “If we take a look at two of the big current issues that are very much in the public consciousness at present, the first is the drive to eliminate plastic, while the other is to reduce packaging waste,” Michael goes on to state. “We have developed the Vita brand of products (Vita being Latin for life), which provides a paper alternative to any plastic ecommerce postal solution. Many of these products also have the ability to enable countless SME’s and Corporates to take advantage of arguably the most overlooked delivery method, namely the humble letterbox.”

Blake Envelopes also knows that ‘first impressions count’. That is why facilitating brand alignment and aiding in brand identification is something that Michael and his team feel passionate about, but as he goes on to reveal, it is something that can all too often be overlooked by businesses. “Brand-aligned postal packaging solutions have considerable growth potential, particularly when it comes to e-commerce. More and more companies are spending considerable sums of money in order to better reflect their brand, whether that be through the incorporation of silk lining, soft touch laminate, foil, or other added touches,” he says. “Nevertheless, I have seen more times than I can count instances where a brand or company goes to great lengths to produce, say, premium brochures to send out to their mailing list, and then ends up stuffing them inside a plain brown envelope,” he says. “It has been shown that around 40 per cent of all mail is opened over a bin, which means often the least appealing items are discard d without being opened, and those businesses whose mail ends up with this fate are, in my opinion, clearly overlooking the basic human characteristic of curiosity.

“We know from experience and from extensive market research what the most successful mailings look like and how they are presented, and we love engaging with marketing departments and corporate to see how we can make their mail impactful. That is why we are able to say to our clients that, while we can’t necessarily guarantee them a sale from their contents, we can say with some certainty that their mail will be opened!”

Turning to the company’s production and manufacturing capabilities, the last few years have proven to be an eventful time for Blake Envelopes, with an investment of £2.7 million being made on a new, 2790 square metre production facility alongside its Yeovil headquarters. While previously, most of the company’s manufacturing was carried out overseas, the new facility will enable it to better deliver bespoke and time-sensitive work after the UK’s exit from the European Union at the end of March 2019.

“You will have heard of the expression OTIF – on time in full – but we have a development on this terminology that we call ‘BTIF’, or ‘before time in full’, which we try to instill in all of our people. We determined some time ago that the only way we can really maintain that level of service going forward was to take control of our supply chain, which this new facility will enable us to do,” Michael adds. Part of the facility will be operational at the turn of March, with the whole site open by the end of April. Upon completion, it will boast 30 production machines, including digital and litho printing, as well as finishing kit.

In addition to its legacy as a multi-generation leader in its field, Blake Envelopes has also earned a reputation for its enviable efforts when it comes to charitable giving. For years, the company has supported a number of local and national charities through donations, but it has also sought to get involved with programmes that can be tracked and measured. One such programme is the ‘School in a Bag’ charity. Each individually tagged and traceable School Bag in question is filled with stationery, learning resources, a water bottle and a lunchbox, and these are distributed to poor, orphan, vulnerable and disaster affected children throughout the world to facilitate their education. Blake Envelopes’ involvement with the appeal saw its first deliveries made to a Romanian school and orphanage in 2018, and this year it plans to continue its efforts with a visit to Africa.

Turning to the company’s plans for 2019, Michael wants to build from the foundations it has laid in the last 12-18 months, during which time it has become more easily recognisable as a manufacturer. “In the UK, we have a have a programme of setting up what we refer to as ‘hubs of excellence’. This hubs are located in proximity to where the most talented envelope experts live. Six of these locations have opened up in the last two years, with another programme of a further eight planned for the next 18 months,” he reveals.

Blake Envelope’s global expansion is well underway, with the opening of an office and warehouse in the United States in July 2018. Meanwhile, to facilitate growth in Europe and to mitigate any trading impact that develops as a result of Brexit, the company will be opening its European warehouse in Dusseldorf in April 2019, which will open it up to serving the majority of mainland Europe on a next day basis.

With such developments in the pipeline, it is clear to see that there are a number of exciting projects continuing to happen throughout the business. “At Blake Envelopes we are never standing still, we are ever evolving and ensuring that we are always ahead through constant innovation,” Michael concludes.

Blake Envelopes
Products: Envelopes, paper and postal packaging