Latest BPIF survey details concerns over recovery

Jo Francis
Thursday, May 7, 2020

The BPIF’s new survey on print’s response to government support schemes details huge industry take-up of the Job Retention Scheme, but also found that the vast majority of respondents do not expect demand to recover “anytime soon” leading to concerns about how the recovery will be managed.

BPIF: "Ours is a resilient and innovative sector, but it will need time to recover"
BPIF: "Ours is a resilient and innovative sector, but it will need time to recover"

The survey was carried out with office supplies federation Boss and ran from 22-30 April. More than 200 companies responded.

The majority, 73%, have remained partially open during the virus crisis with part of the workforce furloughed. 12% had shut completely and furloughed as many employees as possible.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) was described as “a success” by the majority of respondents. Nearly three-quarters of companies have accessed the HMRC portal.

The survey found that the JRS had reduced the potential for immediate large-scale redundancies, however more than 600 redundancies are still expected once the scheme ends, the equivalent of around 4% of employees across the responding businesses.

The industry is calling for flexibility in how the scheme unwinds.

“Almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents would like Government to extend furlough capability as they take time to recover and ramp-up capacity. Over half (55%) of companies would like to have the ability to roll staff in and out of furlough more frequently,” the BPIF stated.

68% said they were not topping up pay for employees that had been furloughed, while 10% were to some extent, and 21% were topping up to normal pay levels.

In terms of the outlook for the hoped for ‘revive’ phase of the crisis, BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold said that the printing industry was “resilient and innovative”, but would need time to recover.

Almost one-fifth of responding companies did not expect that demand levels would recover until October.

13% are not expecting their demand levels to recover until January 2021, with a further pushing it out until April 2021.

The largest share of respondents, 27%, believed that recovery would take more than 12 months.

Just 3% reported that demand levels had not changed, while 6% expect demand to have recovered by July.

“Our latest survey confirms the acute importance to the sector of the support schemes when so much of the economy is temporarily unable to operate. 12% of respondees have ceased operations entirely, with a further 73% relying upon the Job Retention Scheme, although there’s clear feedback on the need for greater flexibility within the scheme,” Jarrold said.

“The CBILs scheme had significant teething problems but is now becoming more effective, although we have significant reservations about debt being offered as support, rather than grants and other direct relief. Finally, with the vast majority of companies not expecting demand to recover any time soon, support schemes must stay in place to avoid large scale company failures and job losses while the economy recovers. Ours is a resilient and innovative sector, but it will need time to recover.”

At the time of the survey, most aspects of the CBILS loan scheme application process were rated negatively.

A third of respondents had applied for a CBILS loan, with just over a quarter being successful while 21% were not.

More than half (53%) were still waiting to find out if their application had been approved.

With prime minister Boris Johnson poised to address the nation on Sunday about how the lockdown measures will be eased, leaked information about the proposals reported in today’s newspapers see the phased measures stretching to October, with strict social distancing rules still in place.

This morning (7 May) the Bank of England warned that the pandemic will result in the UK economy experiencing its deepest recession on record – the sharpest downturn since 1706.

The economy is expected to shrink by 14% for the year overall.

The summary results of the BPIF/Boss Coronavirus Support Schemes Survey can be downloaded here.

The federations will use the survey results in ongoing discussion and lobbying with BEIS (the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) and devolved governments.

The BPIF noted that there was still “much that needs to be done to support our industries, the economy and facilitate a safe return towards productive capacity”.   

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