Writtle had previously owned Creo Retail Marketing, which it sold to DS Smith in 2016. The acquisition of Letchworth-based Showcard also marks the return of Creo founder Richard Saysell to the group.
He becomes a director of Magnet Harlequin Group and managing director of Showcard Print, effective today (8 April).
Magnet Harlequin Group executive chairman Alan Wright said customers would benefit from the expansion of services.
“We are delighted to welcome Showcard and Richard to our growing group. Our brand and retail clients will benefit from this acquisition which further accelerates our ambition to provide the fastest and most cost-effective end-to-end route to market in the sector.”
Showcard’s services include retail point-of-sale and display units, and large-format window and in-store graphics. It has produced work for major retailers and brands, including Primark, Adidas and L’Oréal. The business had been owned by private equity backers Lloyds Development Capital. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
At the end of last year the firm installed an Elitron TAV-R 3.2x2.2m high-speed automated cutting system, having previously invested in an Inca Onset X3 with robotic arm, and a second Lamina Blackline litho laminator as part of a major re-equip.
Showcard offers a mixture of digital, litho and screen printing production. It also operates a Rapida 205 large-format offset press and a B1 Heidelberg Speedmaster as well as a Durst Rho 512R 5m-wide printer, an Inca Onset S50, a Kippax large-format screen press and Diecut UK Redline and Goldline die-cutting machines.
The company's most recent accounts, for the year ending 31 December 2017, show sales down nearly 25% at just under £17.5m, and the business embarked upon a strategic review after posting a loss of £989,000 (2016 profit: £2.2m). Shareholders invested £2m in the re-equip.
“Print is an important part of the marketing mix, but it needs to exist in a wider group like Magnet Harlequin, rather than as a stand-alone,” Wright stated.
“Turnover had declined due to client losses – some like BHS, out of their control – but we hope to rebuild that with our group connections.”
Showcard managing director Mark Smith remains with the business and takes up the newly-created role of client director.
He said: “I have been working for some time to find a partner to take Showcard to the next level of client service offering. Having known Richard for a number of years, and been aware of Creo’s progress, I am delighted we have completed this deal and he is joining us. I look forward to the future with great enthusiasm.”
Magnet Harlequin Group has sales of around £50m and employs 400 at operations in the UK and internationally. Writtle, which had sales of £65.82m in 2017 and is poised to release its 2018 results, also owns point-of-purchase display specialist Arken and a number of creative agencies.
The point-of-sale and large-format print market has seen a number of major changes over the past year, with the closure of SP Group in Redditch, and Paragon Group’s acquisition of Debenhams inplant Magenta and two Service Graphics sites.