If people don't want it, so be it

Jo Francis
Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Jo Francis says it’s not worth worrying about the type of print that’s on its way out. If, indeed, it is.

I was on BBC Radio 5Live last week talking about the new polymer £20 note – I know, get me right?

A previous claim to fame in this regard was an appearance on BBC Radio Essex a while back where the conversation involved the weighty issue of till receipts – again, get me.

What both of these encounters had in common was that part of the conversation revolved around ”will people still use receipts/banknotes [delete as applicable] in the future?”

This is an entirely reasonable thing to ask as undoubtedly some high-profile printed products are very much in decline – newspapers being the obvious item that springs to mind.

Given the way that contactless payments have taken off here in the UK it’s understandable to question what will happen with banknotes. But the Bank of England’s stats show that over the last six years the total number of banknotes in circulation has grown from just over 3bn to nearly 3.8bn.

Whether this is directly connected to the size of the UK’s ‘hidden economy’ (estimated tax gap £3.5bn) I don’t know, but it’s fair to say that lots of people are still using cash in one way or another.

And the Access to Cash people are right when they say if we are going to become a cashless society then that has to be properly planned for, not stumbled into without enough thought about the potential consequences.

And then, there’s till rolls and shopping receipts. The reason this made a radio topic was because at the time Tesco was trialling a new system that involved e-receipts rather than paper ones.

Fine by me. Whether it’s paper statements or paper receipts, if people don’t want them, then we in the printing industry shouldn’t get bent out of shape about it.

What we should get bent out of shape about is people being forced down a particular paperless path, per the excellent work by Two Sides in highlighting that type of thing.

Surely the industry at large will be far better of concentrating on printed items that are valued and impactful, and effective for the end customer (in that respect those till receipt offer vouchers probably count), and new emerging print markets that never even existed before the advent of digital printing technology.

That said, I also have a bit of a ‘last Iceman’ obsession with certain printed products, cheques for example, and was talking to someone only recently who makes a tidy living out of carbonless forms. Remember them?

Even in the face of structural decline in some markets, someone somewhere will be doing very nicely thank-you out of the right type of print. The trick is finding it. 



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