Publication printers have been particularly impacted by the effects of the virus crisis, with many newspaper and magazine sales outlets shuttered, such as those at railway stations and airports, and WH Smith only just starting to reopen its high street stores.
Prinovis UK in Liverpool, the last remaining publication gravure printer in the UK, is consulting on 92 redundancies at its Speke site.
The £66m turnover firm employed 483 staff according to its most recent accounts, so it would reduce its headcount by nearly 20% if the redundancies go ahead.
Prinovis managing director Richard Gray said: “Like many businesses we are having to look at our future demand and profitability profiles, and have entered a consultation process with our employees.”
Magazine, catalogue, flyer and DM printer YM Group is in consultation at its Chantry and Lettershop sites. Printweek understands that 53 roles are at risk at Chantry in Wakefield, and a further 33 positions at Lettershop in Leeds. The £117m turnover group also includes York Mailing in York and Pindar in Scarborough.
Chief executive Stephen Goodman told Printweek: “We are definitely not alone in being forced to look closely at our business. I believe virtually all of our competitors have been forced to do the same.”
Walstead Group had already decided to cut web offset capacity by shuttering its Southernprint site in Poole prior to the full impact of the virus crisis hitting the UK economy.
“Southernprint was closed for its own reasons, and at that point Covid-19 was still in Wuhan,” said chief operating officer Roy Kingston.
The group has used the Job Retention Scheme to furlough staff and has also implemented a three-month pay cut for directors and non-unionised staff.
“Obviously the UK business is under pressure, there’s no question about that. We have taken emergency measures to stave off job losses, and we have no planned job losses at this time, but obviously the picture is a false one because of the furlough scheme,” Kingston added.
“The furlough scheme will end, and unless you can replace those paid-for labour costs with revenue, then you have a problem.
“The difference between our UK business and our European businesses is that the UK is very much publishing based.”
Unite national officer Louisa Bull said the upcoming changes to the JRS, along with the potential requirement to enter consultation periods of 30- or 45-days, meant the industry was entering a critical period.
“There is a window of about a week when we will either hear things [about proposed redundancies] or not,” she said.
“Printing is going to need additional government support to get through this. We are working hard with business and with BEIS to see if we can get some sort of national recovery plan in place.”
Printing industry bosses are wrangling with a number of issues, including trying to work out what level of business is likely to return.
One senior industry source commented: “Covid will increase structural change in print. What will happen in the normal busy season from July to October? What will happen with retail? It’s hard to see travel bouncing back.
“We are trying to work out what volumes are there now, what will come back and how quickly; and what won’t come back.”
Magazine and media consultant Colin Morrison has described the UK magazine market as being “in crisis”, with newsstand sales estimated to have crashed by 20%-25%.
A number of major publishers, including Dennis and Haymarket Media Group, have already announced redundancy rounds.
Newspaper sales have also plunged, and News UK boss Rebekah Brooks has written to employees warning of impending job losses due to the pandemic’s impact on copy sales and advertising.
Some newspaper groups with their own printing capacity have also brought jobs back in-house that were previously outsourced.