It seems that the ongoing saga of industrial action at Wyndeham Impact is set to reach a sorry conclusion. But while the conspiracy theorists have suggested Impact's demise has something to do with the level of union recognition (not to mention unrest) at the site, it seems the reality is far less cloak-and-dagger: Impact was not a financially sustainable business.
When Wyndeham bought CSM Impact in June 1999, the UK web offset sector was a startlingly different prospect to the one we see today in that web offset printers made, rather than lost, money. In its results for the year ended 31 March 2000, Wyndeham made a pre-tax profit of £14.7m on turnover of £109.2m. That’s a margin of 13.5% for pity’s sake.
I doubt having a dedicated cover-printing plant was ever the most efficient way of working but when times were good it probably didn’t matter. However, in 2011, when margins are somewhere south of rock bottom and paper, ink and fuel prices are many multiples of their 2000 level, it surely does.
Is the closure another sad blow for the sector? Yes. Has the dispute over pay soured the relationship between striking staff and management? No doubt. But did that have any impact on the decision to close the site? Not a chance. Despite the vitriol being directed at Walstead, the firm remains the driving force in the consolidation of the web sector. And while 13.5% margins might be a thing of the past for Wyndeham, if any UK web offset printer is to have a future it will only have been made possible by the painful restructuring that has cost the names and jobs of so many once-great firms, of which Impact is – I fear – just the latest.
Simon Nias is news editor of PrintWeek