‘Lockdown part two’: industry reacts

Rule of Six had already impacted the industry, ahead of new restrictions
Rule of Six had already impacted the industry, ahead of new restrictions

Industry bodies have reacted with understandable concern to the latest government restrictions around Covid-19.

With Prime Minister Boris Johnson set to address the nation this evening for the third time since the crisis unfolded, printing industry business owners are getting to grips with the likely impact of fresh restrictions at what is traditionally a busy time of year for the trade as the run up to Christmas gets underway.   

New measures include pubs and restaurants closing at 10pm, limiting weddings to groups of 15, while plans for limited numbers of fans to return to sporting events next month have been halted. 

Office workers have also been told to work from home again, where possible.

This morning, Johnson told the House of Common’s that the country was at a “perilous tipping point”.

The new curbs could be in place for as long as six months. 

BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold said the situation was frustrating because the government’s rationale was not completely clear.

“I think what’s particularly exhausting is that it’s not entirely clear what the strategic priority of the government is: is it trying to beat the virus? Is it trying to suppress the virus until we get a vaccine? We started off protecting the NHS but now it feels slightly different.

“I understand wanting to stop the spread of the infection but it’s at a frightening cost to society,” he added.

“It has a dampening effect on the economy as a whole. Retail, hospitality and leisure has already been clobbered and is about to be hit again.

“In our latest survey 70% of companies said that a lack of demand was the big issue. Most commercial printers are still operating well below last year and that’s a real challenge for people.”

IPIA general manager Brendan Perring said the association had been deluged with enquiries from its members, seeking guidance and assistance about the new set of restrictions.

"The feedback is that the impact of the Rule of Six and the wider tightening of restrictions across the UK is having a rapid impact on business confidence and direct print orders, which is now rolling out from its initial immediate impact on the business-to-consumer print community, most of whom have a retail aspect, through to larger business-to-business commercial print and print management organisations – specifically with a concentration of customers in metropolitan centres.

"The basis for this is the increasing number of inbound calls and emails to the IPIA and BAPC now from this demographic.”

Both the IPIA and BPIF called for the government to implement targeted relief.

“We are working closely with BEIS to feed it as much data and information as possible, as well as working with our trade association colleagues at the GPMA to jointly advocate that a specific means-tested grant fund be made available for print service providers to help them protect jobs and the integrity of our supply chains,” Perring added.

Jarrold commented: “Targeted support would really be very welcome. The government can’t support companies in perpetuity and we all understand that. But there are consequences of trying to protect public health and at the moment the private sector is having to pick up a lot of that.”