Print needs positive owners


Jo Francis reflects on the end of an era as St Ives exits print.

As St Ives has been one of my specialist subjects for the past umpteen years, to be reporting on the sale of Clays, its last remaining print business, caused mixed feelings. It is indeed the end of an era. 

I do feel sad that a group that was once the most-admired business in print is now very much not a printer, and I wonder if legendary founder Bob Gavron will be turning in his grave. Although Gavron cut ties with the group 20 years ago, he retained a keen interest in his progeny right up until his death. No doubt he would be pragmatic enough to recognise that St Ives had embarked upon a [very expensive] path of reinvention, and, rightly or wrongly, for the PLC to move 100% away from print was probably now the best thing.

Because it couldn’t be clearer that the people running St Ives today are not at all interested in print, whereas at Pozzoni, the parent group of the acquirer, printing is their core business. 

I imagine – and very much hope – that the level of energy emanating from the new owners will be a welcome breath of fresh air for the team at Bungay.

To be brutal about it, this industry doesn’t need owners who aren’t interested, are just marking time, or are fixated on the negatives. It needs people who are enthused and positive about the potential opportunities in what is still a huge market. 

Compare and contrast with, say, McGowans, where a visit to the firm’s factory involves engaging print at every turn, including printed walls, floors and more, and palpable positive energy about what print can do for the firm's clients. 

I shall keep a watching brief on St Ives, to see what happens next at a PLC that’s now too small to be a PLC, and because of its circa £50m-turnover print management business.

But my main focus will be on print’s can-do people, rather than the what-might-have-beens. 

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