The fall of Anton Group

Jo Francis
Friday, March 31, 2017

Jo Francis ponders recent events at the UK's biggest commercial sheetfed printer.

What went wrong at Anton?

Whether the administrators’ report will eventually make that totally clear, I do not know. I am scratching my head about a number of things, including the decision to become involved with Merchandise 365, given what appears to be a ‘red flag’ track record there.

And it seems odd that a company that obviously had some issues in its business would decide to embark upon a major revamp of its digital printing facilities so recently, with all of the expense and inevitable disruption that a change like that involves.

It’s also another sad story involving employee ownership that has not gone according to plan (see also Buralls as was, Tullis Russell, and Colchester Print Group). Sad times indeed for all the employees.

The biggest question mark has to be over that bank of six long-perfecting B1 Speedmasters, the largest setup of its type in the country, although admittedly some of that capacity was quite long in the tooth.

Was it simply the case that, for whatever reason, Anton embarked upon the sort of pricing that – always – eventually proves terminal, per the comment from a rival printer in our story? Did they rely too much on print managers? Or was that much firepower and capacity the wrong sort of setup in a world where there are far fewer mega-mailings?

As it happens I was on the mainland when news of the firm’s administration became official, and found myself talking to a senior person from A Very Large W2P Printer about the Anton situation.

My W2P chum could not understand why Anton had not engaged with the various online print players on the continent, and said: “They had such a gigantic machine park – ideal for contract manufacturing for the European online printers.”

Now I don’t know if this was something Anton had explored, or not. What I do know is that I recently visited a German sheetfed printer – also equipped with a bank of B1 Speedmasters – who had large chunks of production time every day blocked off for precisely that sort of client in what was a win-win arrangement.

Lastly – and based on the current information that it is now a shutdown situation – it will be interesting to see whether that circa £40m of work is absorbed elsewhere with barely a ripple, which will tell us something about the amount of latent capacity in the trade.



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