So begins a new decade of opportunity for print

Friday, January 17, 2020

As the decade drew to a close, Printweek took the opportunity to ask some of the wise men and women of print what were their highs, lows and key learnings of the past 10 years.

It's crystal ball time again...
It's crystal ball time again...

And while we had them, we asked them to share some of their hopes and dreams for the decade ahead and, of course, what they really wanted for Christmas in 2019.

Here are some of the edited highlights. The full versions can be found at

What was at the top of your Christmas wish list this year?

Paul Brough, managing director, Bakergoodchild Expansion and growth.

Louisa Bull, national officer, Unite I was hoping for a Labour government, but Santa has disappointed me.

Judith Donovan, chair, Strategic Mailing Partnership To get Brexit done! And champagne... always champagne.

Teresa-Anne Dunleavy, chief executive, Taylor Bloxham Group That I could be spared another conversation on Boris, Brexit or Trump!

Kirk Galloway, chief executive, Buxton Press A nice full order book for 2020... 2021... 2022... etc!

Paul Hulley, chief executive, Clays Free ink.

Charles Jarrold, chief executive, BPIF A great family Christmas, enjoyed with a suitable glass (or two) of something suitable!

Diana Levy, print and production services manager, Royal Horticultural Society That the word ‘Brexit’ is never spoken again!

Neil Lovell, chief executive, The Printing Charity Time off to get out of the city, breath fresh air and recharge the batteries. 2020 is going to be pretty full-on for the charity, and personally, too.

Mike Malpas, managing director, Hampton Printing Trying to get a bit of a rest! and hoping there will be more confidence and realisation in this digital age that quality print really can bring value.

Paul Manning, managing director, Rapidity The English Football League to complete their approval of Charlton’s new owners and for some January transfer window spending money to challenge for promotion!

Koli Pickersgill, production and repro director, Immediate Media A satisfactory conclusion to the three-year Brexit nightmare!

Mike Roberts, managing director, PMG Print Management After the fantastic year we’ve had at PMG, including winning the IPIA’s Print Management Company of the Year, I’m looking forward to some family time, a good few drinks and rest up in the Lakes at new year.

Jacky Sidebottom-Every, joint managing director, Glossop Cartons Good health and peace to all, oh and a new horse!

Simon Smith, managing director, CS Labels A new crystal ball. My current one is a little bit cloudy.

Kevin Stanton, managing director, Fox Group At the top of my wish list is health and happiness to all my family and friends.

Jonathan Tame, managing director, Two Sides That Brexit is solved and business can make strategic plans for the future.

Jeremy Walters, chief executive, Paragon CC Happy clients and a full order book.

As the decade draws to a close, what trend (business or technology) do you think the 2010s will be remembered for?

PB Digital inkjet printing technology allowing for competitive pricing.

LB The future skills debate around AI and robotics seems to have dominated.

JD Unfortunately, this was the decade when e-communications went from being useful to becoming a home of hate and nonsense.

TD The emergence of digital technologies in all their guises. Apps, digital print, digital marketing, etc – all were in their infancy when the decade kicked off.

KG There have been so many advances in personal technology that we now completely take for granted – things like iPads, smart watches, Alexa and drones – so much so that it’s hard to imagine the world without them. But on occasion it would be rather nice to be able to switch all these things off and not be quite as ‘contactable’!

PH Consolidation – across all markets. And maybe the next decade will be remembered for it as well...

CJ Very much as the decade that the internet, digital and mobile all really took off, changing the way we communicate and discover information.

DL The move away from single-use plastic. I don’t think there has ever been one area of focus that has affected businesses across so many different sectors and given rise to such strong feelings and a call to make changes from customers.

NL The internet of things (IoT) has moved from an acronym to a reality in our everyday lives. We are, for better of worse, more connected across pretty much everything we do, from home and leisure to work and business. Our hunger for being able to experience things at pace and across multiple devices, for example, will carry on unabated and I believe there is more to be excited about in the future than feared.

MM Selfies! And a now acknowledged injury – ‘selfie wrist’. Handheld devices and the availability of data for instant personal access.

PM The profound effect the internet and the digital world has had on all industries, populations and governments around the world.

KP Rapid advancement of digital printing in quality, cost and opportunities.

MR The resurgence of print – the ongoing advance of inkjet, like the Fujifilm Jet Press, and of course the advent of Nanography.

JS It will be the digital machine cometh; it’s been this decade that we have seen so many machine offerings from many manufacturers with massive technological improvement over the last few years.

SS The value of digital and how it can drive a business into new markets.

KS The growth of digital print.

JT The digital world. Music, videos, how we buy goods and, sadly, how we read and consume information. But in this increasingly digital world, what better way to detox than with a real book, magazine or newspaper.

JW Innovation, resulting in exciting advancements in technologies which have enabled new business solutions to be developed that have helped transform the customer communications landscape.

What do you think will represent the single biggest opportunity for printers in the next decade and why?

PB Opportunities for smaller organisations due to consolidation in the market and the decline of letter volumes leading to shorter runs.

LB I am still trying to work out why we in print have not taken ownership of 3D printing in a bigger way.

JD There is a huge opportunity around print as a premium product. People forget that paper is tactile – that’s something you can’t replicate on an email.

TD Actually listening to customers and being best placed to deliver the broader solutions they need; in some come cases getting them to reduce print runs.

KG Credibility. Print is still the trusted medium for information and with ‘fake news’ (another term we can thank the last decade for) being published uncensored on-line, I think the credibility, reliability and honesty that print offers will come ever more to the fore.

PH 10 years ago it was said by many that print would be gone in 10 years’ time. 10 years later, the industry has been buffeted and some parts of it will never be what they once were, but the doomsayers were wrong. The opportunity for printers is to move on from fighting the decline in old markets and demonstrate the different – but growing – value of print in our digital world, capturing that value in markets old and new and reinventing themselves for the future.

CJ In a sector so large and diverse, it is almost impossible to pick one, but overall it’ll be about demonstrating how print solves problems and creates opportunities for its users in ways that other media cannot.

DL Introducing print technology and substrates that will allow customers to be much more sustainable and produce a much wider range of products that are fully recyclable.

NL Relationships. They are the basis of good business, no matter how advanced that business is or the tech it employs. As technology takes on more of the processes involved in print, the fact remains that people relate to people. And printers must value more the benefit of flexible and adaptable teams. They also need to create a positive culture for their teams. Even though the internet of things is unstoppable, ‘printers’, and all sectors, have to be able to interpret and articulate what is possible.

MM It has got to be the value we can realise with our clients in providing a forward-thinking pro-active level of service. We all need volume but there are more ways to be successful, efficient of course, lean without doubt, but we must also create the difference.

PM Diversification of services and products whether produced in-house or outsourced. Print is a service, not a heavy manufacturing industry and that’s how we should treat it.

KP Finding greener ways to print and promoting printed products in the sustainability arena looking at inks, energy, paper and carbon offsetting.

MR The rapid pace of technological developments that give us all great opportunities to expand our respective positions.

JS The improved perception of paper and cartonboard materials versus other packaging mediums. We have a great environmental and sustainable story to tell, let’s shout about it and capitalise this advantage for our businesses.

SS AI technology to drive continued productivity improvement to offset likely increase in staff costs.

KS Online print ordering. We are working on many products that will hopefully gain us a better margin.

JW The further proliferation of user data, deeper understanding of customer behaviour and analysis of customer preferences – enabling individualisation of printed customer communications that provide tangible added value and significantly enhance the customer experience.

What do you think will represent the single biggest threat for printers in the next decade and why?

PB Digital marketing, unless the industry continues to push the benefits of print through closer engagement with our customers.

LB You would expect it to be less reliance on the printed word, but for me it will be lack of succession planning as the skills leave our industry due to age profile.

Stephen Docherty group chairman, Bell & Bain I think printers will still find it very difficult to keep their heads above water [in 2020].

JD The blind dash to digital driven by the herd mentality of the millennials – and campaigning teenagers from Sweden!

TD The accelerated growth of new media which enable clients to communicate across a range of platforms.

KG Unsustainable pricing. This has already harmed – and probably halved – the printing industry and undermines and devalues our industry as well as the hardworking and skilled personnel who form its backbone.

PH Any obstacle to re-thinking their world and moving out of the past.

CJ It’s a very competitive sector, and that will not change, so, standing still, not changing and not taking calculated business risks, hard though that is.

DL Sustainability. Like many companies, our customers are increasingly looking at what we produce and how we produce it and expect us to be able to demonstrate that what we do has minimal environmental impact. It’s going to be increasingly important that printers are able to invest in equipment and technology that allows them to deliver print that meets higher and higher standards for sustainability. Companies that can’t do that won’t survive.

NL It’s hard to say if there is one thing, but as a bit of a catch-all I would say attitude. This comes down to creating the right culture, in which everyone is valued and supported. The sector must attract and retain good people so it follows that it should project all the positives there are about what it does to support in this aim. I believe that we also should be more mindful the word ‘print’ is misunderstood and not particularly attractive to a young generation. More can be done to show what’s involved in our sector to excite and inspire, not just potential employees but clients and consumers, too. The risk is that we fail to make the sector relevant for all our audiences and stakeholders.

MM The constant squeeze on workable margins despite us continually investing in the latest technology and at the same time reducing our business costs.

PM Putting off change for another day. The industry will eat you up if you stand still, yet it’s still the biggest killer to our trade. I know lots of great companies who have pushed, changed and adapted themselves and without exception these are the better companies in the trade yet they are still in the minority.

KP The continued rise of smart phones and tablet use by consumers.

MR Ourselves – we have to break the age old habit of talking to ourselves as an industry, don’t get caught up in unsustainable pricing models and allowing buyers to continue to commoditise our services and products.

JS The march of e-commerce success and the effect on the decaying high streets. We cannot let the high street fade to nothing, it will affect printed packaging greatly.

SS Brexit. It is not sorted as we are only now commencing trade negotiations. The new government will hopefully clear the logjam.

KS The reduction in marketing/operational print spend.

JW Continued increases in raw material and supply chain costs will potentially add further barriers and challenges for customers and this is a major contributor that drives customers to invest their available budgets in other communication channels.

What’s the one thing that the industry should do more of, or do better, in the 2020s?

PB We should market ourselves better and understand how we can combine the benefits of both printed and digital channels.

LB I think my answer is the same each year: more collaboration on training across print and packaging.

JD A bit of effective marketing wouldn’t hurt!

TD The focus needs to be on service, not print technology. In a climate of shorter lead times, lower quantities and print being only one of conflicting drains on client budgets, the dialogue needs to be broader and better informed to effectively engage clients.

KG Value itself. It’s not only about putting ink on paper. Printers have a huge breadth of skills, expertise, knowhow and knowledg, and a fantastic range kit at their disposal to deliver for their clients. We should recognise this and all be a little more proud of what we can do and the services we can provide.

PH We need to make our businesses and our supply chains fit for purpose in the era of climate crisis.

CJ We need to work together to help strengthen the perception of the industry as a great place to work in, doing fantastic creative things that deliver great results to its clients.

DL We should stop seeing print buyers as the enemy of printers and realise that neither buyers nor printers can be successful unless we work together. Printers should take the opportunity to promote what they can do for buyers that buyers may not even have realised they need yet.

NL Better marketing and showcasing what is possible with print are both vital to the future of the sector. What all aspects of the sector are capable of is incredible. It ranges from high-tech to highly creative; from hands-on to future thinking and the art of what’s possible. There is a place for every type of skill and ability but people who don’t work in our sector wouldn’t think of it in that way. It’s a challenge and massive opportunity.

MM Addressing our environmental issues.

PM We need to embrace technology. It’s there as a fantastic tool that can create so many opportunities and we need to be better at it as an industry. We should also be more positive, I admit I find myself being too negative sometimes but this is a great trade and there are still so many opportunities out there. Be happy!

KP I think the industry is getting better at this, but it absolutely must be about supporting and evangelising about the power of print alongside digital offerings to a wider audience.

MR Our industry should promote itself to the wider world, the marketeers and brands, the consumers – help them all understand how powerful and creative our industry can be with innovation and clever thinking. Look at the EPIC initiative from the IPIA.

JS We should shout about our green credentials loud and clear but, more importantly, we as an industry have to convince young people that print is a fabulous career option. We need talented, passionate people to join us in our industry.

SS Improve communication on how the industry can improve sustainability. Plastic has suffered from poor image due to lack of understanding as to what benefits the material bring. The issue is more around single use plastics and how we currently dispose of waste.

JT Explain the effectiveness and relevance of print in the communication mix to brands and agencies. And reassure them, and consumers, how it is a sustainable choice.

JW Building the bigger picture for customers and becoming true partners with a single voice that can understand their businesses and proactively identify challenges and solutions, so we can really add value as a communications partner.

What was your biggest disappointment of the 2010s?

PB None, it was a fantastic decade!

LB In a word, Brexit. I am a strong remainer.

JD The UK government’s reluctance to legislate to protect people’s right to receive paper bills.

TD The impact of rising raw material costs and the oversupply that created stagnant or declining selling prices for our products.

KG That so many long-established businesses and household names – in print and in commerce – went into administration due to bad luck, misfortune or mismanagement – or a combination of all three. Not only does this adversely contribute to unemployment and negatively impact on the economy but a lot of knowledge and vital skills honed over many years are lost across the board and these cannot be replaced overnight.

PH I only came into print in 2010, so for me it’s been a decade of discovery rather than disappointment.

CJ Sorry to say it, but the Rugby World Cup final, despite England’s best efforts and some brilliant rugby.

DL The election of Trump.

NL [The lack of] kindness. It’s subtle but powerful. Don’t you think we have lost this with all the negativity brought about by the ‘B’ word, in our faces, day in and day out? Acts of kindness are catalysts for a better, more tolerant and happy society.

MM The constant squeeze on workable margins and many creative agencies’ obsession with digital, at times almost 100% to the detriment of litho print! And the fact that some corners of the print industry are still reeling from the 2008 financial crash – some light relief would be welcome!

PM Brexit and Trump.

KP Helplessly watching so many print businesses fold, with jobs and years of expertise lost within the industry.

MR Brexit.

JS Buying an industrial unit and then finding it floods and had no right to its electricity supply. Four years of aggro and a large court case later has somewhat soured us, but looking forward to a good outcome in 2020.

KS The amount of lies told by our politicians.

JT My expanded waistline.

What was your highlight of the decade?

PB Becoming managing director at Bakergoodchild!

LB Frank Lampard returning to the Chelsea faithful.

SD [Of 2019:] We have got our team a better pension scheme, and private healthcare for employees with three years’ service and more. And a Christmas bonus! It’s all about the people!

JD The degree of engagement by the whole country in the 2018 first world war commemorations.

TD Other than the Scotland v England Six Nations match at Murrayfield in February 2018, it’d need to be the expanded breadth of our client base coupled with our own diversification strategy that introduced so many interesting solution considerations that print alone could not have delivered.

KG Being recognised on successive occasions as Printweek’s Company of the Year – a great honour and a fantastic boost for Team Buxton!

PH The strength in physical book sales in the last half of the decade.

CJ Spending nearly half of it at the BPIF, at the centre of such a great industry with so many great, smart, fun people! That, and Norwich City getting promoted (even if they’re looking a little shaky currently)!

DL Flying in a Spitfire and having sole control for nearly five minutes before looping the loop and doing a victory roll! From a work perspective, being the first high-volume magazine in the UK to make the move to paper wrapping. It’s not often the RHS leads the way in publishing.

NL Personally, reaching my half-century and celebrating with my closest and most loyal friends and family. I am very lucky. And I have now made enough mistakes to learn from and keep me going for hopefully the next half a century! Professionally, working in organisations with brilliant people and playing my part in making a difference. Yes, it’s a cliche, but it is also pretty much what my role is about – creating an environment where we can make a difference.

MM After being with the business for more than 30 years, buying this multi-award winning company from my retiring managing director.

PM Getting married and having two sons.

KP Recently realising that people are taking climate change seriously and actively doing more to mitigate the damage.

MR I got to the end of it, and PMG had its best financial performance since 2011 this year.

JS Being the first company in the world to buy the Highcon Euclid in 2013.

SS Achieving Label Printer of the year 2019 at the Printweek Awards.

KS My daughter Sophie being born after being told that we couldn’t have any more children.

JW Too many to list, but definitely all the people I’ve worked with.

What are your hopes for 2020s?

PB To grow through increased volumes and providing a wider range of products and services through innovation at Bakergoodchild.

LB An end to print closures and job losses and some stability for the sector.

SD For Bell & Bain [in 2020] I hope to steady the ship with in-house training and improve our customer services. We have to also manage the installations of our new Koenig & Bauer presses, and we will have an additional Muller Martini Diamant case binder too! I think we’ll near the £20m-turnover mark, with the group hitting the £35m. Glasgow Celtic will win the ninth league in a row.

JD More equality, more opportunity, more common sense!

KG A lot more kindness and tolerance in the world certainly wouldn’t go amiss.

PH More diversity in print – it’s still a man’s world.

CJ To see our industry continue to thrive as it shows how brilliant, creative, innovative and engaging it is, and (sorry) but see Brexit sorted out in a way that at the least enables all UK businesses to thrive.

DL That we see an end to dodgy pre-packs that allow failed business owners to dump their debt and just carry on regardless. That people realise that we need to support the UK book printing trade much more if we want to see it survive and thrive. That I continue to enjoy working in print as much as I have done during the 2010s.

NL Other than greater kindness, I hope that society does not become more divisive and fractured, which I guess is the same thing, isn’t it?! In the last half of the 2010s we have lurched toward a propensity for blame and fear. My hope (and belief) is that we can and will move on from that.

MM That we continue to make the positive strides that we have done since the acquisition.

PM That our great country can re-unite and stop treating each other with contempt. That foodbanks aren’t necessary, the NHS works, the emergency services are properly funded, social and mental health care is treated seriously and that Charlton are promoted and go on to win the Premier League. I accept the last point there is unrealistic.

KP For the UK to stabilise, regroup, recover and find some sense of unity.

MR Our industry, and PMG, continues to prosper. I retire...

JS I think the UK will do really well, we need to stabilise after the Brexit vote and political unrest, then when we as a nation have firm foundations we can look forward to a business boom. Am I dreaming? Don’t think so.

SS A fairer society in which the division caused by Brexit becomes a distant memory.

KS Continued success for the Fox Group.

JW To see less polarisation in our society, to reduce factions and solve major challenges affecting the world, to allow foundations for sustained economic growth.

We can’t believe we’re asking this question for the third year running: what is your one-word view on Brexit?

PB Disaster.

LB Disaster.

JD Yes!

TD Madness.

KG Embarrassing.

PH Deception.

CJ Endless.

NL Opportunity…because what’s the alternative?

MM Opportunity.

PM Turkeys-voting-for-Christmas (clever use of hyphens there, eh!)

KP Despondent.

MR Bored.

JS Sorry, three words: Get Brexit done.

KS Joke.

JT Bored and irritated – why use one word when two is better.

JW Two words: hurry-up.

What was the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

PB Volunteer for everything.

LB I’ve probably said this before, but my dad always told me to “make sure you got your round in” at the bar. We both worked in Fleet Street, in those days.

SD Dream bigger!

JD Carpe diem! Seize the day!

TD A smile costs nothing.

KG Stick to what you know!

PH If you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

CJ Two ears, one mouth…

DL Be true to yourself and your values. People will like you or not like you but what is important is that you can look yourself in the mirror each day and know that you are living your life in a way that you’ll look back on and be proud of when you are old.

NL I am not sure there is one piece of advice but there are people I have worked for and with whom I admire. They generally have the ability to share their vision and bring people with them and are natural communicators with an inquisitive and creative streak that keeps them vital. I try to emulate some of these traits whenever I can.

MM Not to waste time comparing yourself with others.

PM ‘If you build it they will come’ is not a business plan.

KP Remember to say thank you... preferably hand written in a card!

MR Always do the right thing.

JS Follow your gut instinct. I wish I had heeded it more when I was younger, it’s always right! If it does not feel good, don’t do it!

SS Always treat people with respect and humility as you progress up the corporate ladder as more often than not you will meet them as you travel down.

KS From my dad. Take the job offered to me in the printing industry.

JW Don’t go on an evening out with Nick Dixon!

What if anything will you do differently in the new decade?

LB Enjoy more time with family, as they are so precious.

JD Nothing.

TD Get on the print floor more. It’s a great reminder of the added value we bring and our differentiator in the market place.

KG Why alter perfection!

PH Go to the gym more often. Conveniently interchangeable with – go for a gin more often.

CJ Enjoy and use the time that we imagine we’ll have now our kids are finished with school.

DL I say it every year and then it never happens – get out of the office and make more visits to printers, as it’s a very useful way to see what new developments there are and to build supplier relationships.

NL I think I am pretty relaxed generally but I could chillax a bit more and celebrate the small things as well as the big. I’d like to make sure I keep connected to what the younger generation are thinking and understand how older people view the world around them. Achieving more of these things will help me personally and professionally.

MM Nothing. I learn all the time which means l’m always changing and trying to be better at what we do.

PM More focus on technology related customer service, marketing and product development.

KP Slow down and smell the coffee.

MR Collaborate more.

JS As Glossop Cartons expands and is set to grow, I am learning to share the workload with my very able team of co-directors. I have to remember there is no I in team.

SS Allow others the opportunity to make their own mistakes rather than try and help them avoid mistakes. It is all part of the learning curve.

KS Work fewer hours.

Are you making any new year’s resolutions? If so, what?

LB No, as I disappoint myself when I break them.

JD There’s no point, I only end up ignoring or breaking them!

DL You never know what is round the corner so my resolution is to continue to enjoy my life as much as possible now and not to put things off until later as later may not come.

NL I am not a big fan of resolutions. The only one I made and stuck to was giving up smoking and that was around 20 years ago. I am happy to have achieved that one so won’t tempt fate by trying any others!

MM No new year’s resolutions as such as l’m not big on that, but l have promised myself that l will try to improve my work/life balance.

KP Having more meat-free days in the week.

MR No, I stopped making them a few years ago as I try to live every day the best that I can.

JS Live life to the full, life’s far too short. Happy New Year to all.

KS No – they never last more than a couple of days with me!

JT Don’t look at emails after midnight.

JW It’s not something I typically do. We embrace change so much, I’m making new resolutions every month.

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