Bishops aims to 'grow back better'

Jo Francis
Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Bishops Printers is recruiting as the business gears up to handle the new seasonality, with society reopening and events ramping up.

Bishops' press hall: "There are gains if you want to go and get them"
Bishops' press hall: "There are gains if you want to go and get them"

The Portsmouth-based company had to restructure last year after the pandemic caused 70% of its core business printing for clients in sports, events and the arts to disappear, pretty much overnight. 

Managing director Gareth Roberts said that 60% of the B2 litho and digital specialist’s work was for trade clients, and thanked them for their support. 

He also said that the pandemic period had been notable for the amount of work for local clients the business had produced. 

“There has definitely been an aspect of people buying locally and supporting us locally,” he explained. 

“Businesses in the Solent and Hampshire area know us primarily for doing football programmes. There is something to be said for making sure you’ve got that mix, and the work you do for people you deliver to with your own van rather than third-party couriers.

“Both local customers and our trade partners have been really supportive.”

Roberts said the recovery had been “a little stuttering” due to the uncertainty and delay to releasing lockdown, but he remained optimistic.

“What it has meant, is how you plan your capacity for a period when seasonally it might not have been busy. Business is now returning to areas of society where they might normally have done their print in February or March, and all of a sudden they’re going to have to do it in July and August.”

Roberts also said that changes in buying patterns could benefit the business. 

“For example, there’ll be a customer out there that previously did 100,000 catalogues that would have been too big for us, and they’re now doing 20,000 and that’s in our sweet spot. 

“There are gains if you want to go and get them, and that’s why we have to get our recruitment right and be glass half full about the situation – it’s a chance to grow back a bit better, not have so much bad debt, and freshen things up.”

He said the firm had taken on eight new staff in the past couple of months, with probably a further four additional roles to be filled. 

“That will take us from 184 to close to 200. It’s by no means back to where we were, but  some of that’s about efficiency, and some of it is prudence – let’s be ambitious enough to expand with the market but not so reckless as to risk having to roll back from it,” he said.

“Nobody wants to go backwards again, it’s got to be a really positive and sustained move forward.” 

Bishops has also been among the print firms to receive a boost in orders because of the branding and promotional activity around the Euro 2020 football tournament that concluded on Sunday with Italy beating England on penalties at Wembley. 

It printed the official matchday programmes for UEFA contract publishing partner Reach Sport, and is currently producing a reprint of the programme for the final. 

“In general, we feel confident that events are returning and people still see print as an important part of the marketing mix,” Roberts added. 

“People want a physical souvenir of that experience.”

Roberts said the family-owned firm was tracking for sales of around £18m in its current financial year, which began in February, and he expected to be “close to 90% of normal turnover” in the second half. 

Bishops operates 24/7 and runs five ten-colour Heidelberg Speedmaster XL75 long perfectors, along with an eight-colour perfector and two Speedmaster SX74 presses in five- and six-colour configurations. Its digital setup includes seven-colour B3 and B2 HP Indigo presses. 

The firm has extensive in-house finishing facilities including stitching and perfect binding, and also offers mailing and fulfilment services. 



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