Walstead to reopen York Mailing

The York Mailing site at Elvington
The York Mailing site at Elvington

Walstead Group will restart the York Mailing site next month as it tests the waters over customer demand in the commercial web market.

It acquired the assets of York Mailing and Pindar Scarborough from the administrators of YM Group’s web division earlier this month.

Roy Kingston, group chief operating officer at Walstead Group, told Printweek that since then the business had also acquired the outstanding assets at YM Chantry in Wakefield, which includes the Sunday 5000 64pp short-grain press that came out of Polestar Sheffield.

Regarding the reboot of the York Mailing site, which has been shuttered since administrators abruptly took over at the end of March, Kingston said: “Whether it’s ex-York work or not, we believe there must be significant commercial/retail work in the market to suit the format of the presses York had.

“Although we think it’s unlikely it will be on a huge scale, the York factory is big enough to house reasonable volume, but small enough not to be a disaster if it didn’t work. The site’s in nice condition and the presses meet the sort of marketing profile that we think might be out there.”

The York Mailing site specialised in press finished products and had been YM’s most profitable subsidiary. It houses two Manroland Lithoman web presses: a 64/72pp long-grain and 48pp short-grain.

There is also a 32pp short-grain with 904mm cut-off that has been mothballed for some time.

“Businesses going bust isn’t unusual. A business closing and then being resurrected is very unusual and it’s a whole new challenge,” Kingston noted.

He said Walstead began recruiting yesterday (25 May), ahead of the planned restart on 6 June.

“We aim to start up with limited shifts, probably 72 hours in the first week, with a crew that can run either press and sufficient people to handle pre-press and maintenance. Then later in June we’ll probably add another 72 hours,” he explained.

“It gives us a chance to get everything working properly. People left the site very quickly [when it was closed] so there’s a bit of work to do.

“It should be quite a nice business, and it’s exciting for us to get into a slightly different market in terms of format. I’m confident and the UK team seem confident in terms of sales, but it may take a while.”

Some of the work previously printed at YM’s web sites has moved to printers on the continent, but Kingston said he hoped at least some of that volume would return to the UK due to the transit issues, post-Brexit delays, and costs involved.

Former YM Group COO Mike Newbould Junior and ex-York Mailing works director Steve Marshall are working on the restart.

Walstead has set up two new companies: Walstead York and Walstead Scarborough, but Kingston said there was not currently any prospect of there being a sufficient level of sales to reopen the much larger Scarborough site, which also has a big bindery.

The main building and press hall has just gone on the market to buy or let. 

However, Walstead is running one of the Ferags at Scarborough on a 72 hour week, for a three month period.

A second Ferag line from the site is being moved to Walstead Bicester, where it will replace two “old, slow stitching lines”.

Regarding the Chantry presses and the raft of other YM assets acquired, including multiple web offset presses, Kingston stated: “We will re-equip our European and UK factories accordingly and go from there. But they won’t be falling into the hands of anybody who will compete against us in Europe, that’s for sure.”

Walstead Group is the biggest independent web offset printing group in Europe, and also has gravure capabilities on the continent. In the pandemic-impacted results for calendar year 2020 the business had sales of €540.4m (£459.4m), and 3,180 employees.