Early lesson from Artisan failure

Jo Francis
Friday, May 15, 2015

Jo Francis is sad, but unsurprised by news that Leicester's Artisan Press has gone into administration.

Like lots of people in the industry, I am sad about the news from Artisan Press, but I am completely unsurprised.

When I joined PrintWeek, back in the mid-1990s, Artisan was viewed as the pinnacle of high-quality web offset printing.

It had bought cutting-edge kit – including Europe’s first gapless M3000 web offset press. And then it put in a second, and a third.

In 2003 it put in a 48pp M4000.

But then, while other industry players put in bigger, faster, more high-tech presses over the intervening years, for whatever reason Artisan did not. The press investment dried up.

Its ability to print beautiful, high-quality work was not in question – you just have to look at the John Lewis and M&S catalogues to see that. But I could not understand how Artisan could possibly continue to compete with firms like York Mailing, Wyndeham and, now, Polestar who have presses that are way more efficient: manning, makereadies, running speeds, paper wastage – it all adds up.  

And, let’s face it, Artisan was operating in a part of the market that is declining, fact. The market for big catalogues and holiday brochures has fundamentally changed, as this week’s news from Littlewoods proves.

The firm's bindery setup is highly-desirable, and it is going to be super-interesting to see what happens with that – either as a standalone business, perhaps, or where the kit ends up including that brand new Muller binder.

The dust has not really settled on yesterday evening’s news, but one lesson from the Artisan Press situation is already clear: it’s another example of where printco owners have hung on for too long. Until it’s too late.

For anyone out there facing similar challenges, some words of advice. Make decisions and act on them while you’ve still got the choice about doing so. 

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