Vail Simon Fox

Jo Francis
Friday, July 10, 2015

Jo Francis reflects on recent events in Witham.

I have mixed feelings about Simon Fox’s decision to call time on Woodford Litho.

I feel sad that it’s the end of the line for this long-standing family-owned printing company, and about the resulting loss of jobs. Another name for my list of web offset printers that are no more. 

But I feel glad that Simon has made what must have been a very difficult decision, especially with the weight of all that family heritage. It’s something he has certainly thought long and hard about.

Per this blog about Artisan, business owners need to make decisions when they’ve still got a choice about doing so.

The situation at Woodford is very different, not least because there is no bank debt, and therefore the bank isn’t pulling the strings, and it looks like the firm’s creditors will be paid.

It comes to something, though, when you can see the logic in someone shutting down their printing business because there would in all likelihood be a better, and easier, living to be made from simply renting the empty factory out to someone else.

But that, dear reader, is symptomatic of the UK web offset market, which appears to be approaching the end game – certainly for publication printers.

As one wise print boss said to me this week: “You can’t spend the millions of pounds that are required to set up these machines and then sell them for the hourly rate of a folder. It cannot work by anyone’s reckoning and so the number of presses must reduce.”

Quite. 

The removal of Artisan’s, and now Woodford’s, web capacity will surely make the coming autumn print schedules more interesting even than they were last year.

Wise boss also noted: “Customers who have enjoyed punching prices down and saying things like ‘you need to look at the bigger picture’ might not enjoy quite so much what the bigger picture actually looks like.”

 

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