The Speke site was set up in 2017 and employed around 35 staff, producing work for the group’s Quinnstheprinters.com online trade printing brand, as well as for other group companies.
It stopped printing yesterday morning (9 January).
Managing director Peter Bradley said that paper price increases, the uncertain business climate caused by Brexit, and the ultra-competitive trade printing market had resulted in the decision to mothball the facility.
“We had been trying to make the two sites [Belfast and Liverpool] work in probably the hardest trading conditions in ten years. We can’t increase prices, so we had to reduce overheads,” he said.
“As a business we like to grow and expand, but sometimes you have to put your hands up and say we need to be more conservative. This was a strategic decision and not taken lightly. It just wasn’t sustainable in the long-term to carry on with the Liverpool factory.”
Bradley said that there would be the potential for some Liverpool staff to relocate to Belfast.
Some of the finishing kit from the site will be relocated to Belfast, it’s not yet known what will happen to the factory’s eight-colour Speedmaster XL106 LE-UV press.
Although the Liverpool site was set up with the aim of providing a faster-turnaround to the UK mainland, Bradley said he believed the firm could still achieve the required service levels.
“Delivery does not outweigh the cost of the site in terms of the cost of shipping. We can still do the same timelines,” he stated.
The move follows a period of considerable change at the group, which has consolidated its Belfast operations at the Mallusk site of Nicholson Bass, acquired in the summer of 2017 just a few months after the acquisition of the Mannin Group.
The nearly-new 10-colour Speedmaster XL106 from Stones was installed there last year.
Bradley said the business is in the process of relocating a five-colour Speedmaster SX74 with coater from its Mannin Group subsidiary in the Isle of Man to Belfast, while Mannin will add to its digital printing capabilities with a new HP Indigo 7900.
A B2 HP Indigo 10000 has just been installed at the Belfast site, which Bradley said was the first machine of its type in Northern Ireland.
Bradley admitted that the upheaval had caused some production issues, which had resulted in negative customer feedback.
“We had a few issues, but we have rectified them,” he said. “When there is change there is disruption. We hope to have a disruption-free 2019.”
Bradley asserted that the group, which has sales of around £14m and employs 95 staff, remained profitable and intended to remain that way.
“We made a profit last year and are planning on making one next year as well,” he stated. “With one site and reduced overheads, we hope to have our most profitable year yet.”