It’s time to get a fresh perspective now we’ve got rid of the zombies

Printweek editor Darryl Danielli
Printweek editor Darryl Danielli

If you were to skim through this issue’s news digest, you could be forgiven for thinking the industry is on its last legs – with so many references to insolvencies, cut-backs, overreaches, and a whole host of other challenges.

However, if you delve behind the headlines, you’ll quickly realise that, yes, there are challenges for some, but in many instances that represents an opportunity for others. It’s all about perspective, I guess.

And maintaining a sense of perspective is critical in any business, yes print insolvency rates seem to have been high in recent months, but is that perhaps indicative of an industry in rude rather than poor health?

After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that the industry was blighted by zombie companies.

These were the businesses that limped along for years, only surviving by offering unsustainable prices that enabled them to win just enough work to service their debt – thanks to the historically low interest rates of the time – while their responsible rivals struggled to reinvest due to the zombies decimating margins.

Then of course there were the years of the phoenix, where there was a spate of struggling print businesses simply shutting up shop one day, only to start again the next with a slightly different company name and miraculously debt free.

Thankfully the zombies and phoenixes are relatively rare nowadays, the unexpected benefit of higher interest rates and tougher stances by suppliers.

When you combine the rarity of both, with the ironically healing pruning of the tough trading of recent years, than the majority of the companies that remain are strong, sustainable businesses. And those that
aren’t and get into difficulties, then their demise is relatively swift, mercifully limiting the damage of their death throes.

So, I would argue that while the industry faces challenges, it’s perhaps healthier now than it has been for a very long time. That’s my perspective, anyway.