Pandemic claims another high-end print firm

Darryl Danielli
Tuesday, January 11, 2022

London-based, award-winning Boss Print has become the latest victim of the pandemic and closed its doors following an unsustainable drop in work.

Smith: It’s been like a perfect storm
Smith: It’s been like a perfect storm

The firm’s 11 staff were sent home last Tuesday, and Printweek understands that a liquidator will be appointed imminently.

Managing director Fenton Smith said that trading had been difficult since the start of the pandemic, and that despite the firm making use of the furlough scheme, like many print businesses, and the various lockdown respites, the business had run out of time.

“I’ve never had to do this before and certainly wouldn’t want to do it again. It is what it is, but it’s a real shame because what the team has built here and what we can do, I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved."

The business was founded in 2000 as a digital printer by Phil Ash and Joe Kilmurray, with Smith becoming a partner around 2004 to add a litho offering.

Ash exited the business around 2010, resulting in Kilmurray and Smith becoming joint owners. However, in 2015 Kilmurray died suddenly when on a walking holiday and Smith refinanced and took on the business solo in 2016.

He said that the fiscal lessons learnt from refinancing in the aftermath of losing his business partner stood him in good stead as he battled to trade through the pandemic, “but as every month went by and it didn’t get any better, we just ran out of time".

The Acton, West London-based printer has won dozens of awards, including many Printweek Awards. Most recently it was the big winner at November’s British Book Design and Production Awards.

A fair chunk of its success was driven by its inhouse five-colour litho process called Vivid Colour, which Smith developed for high-end products that required stunning results, especially when used with Stochastic screening. The process is centred around a CMYK plus violet inkset.

It’s the second high-end London printer to close its doors in recent months, following the winding up of Push Print last year.

While the two firms were unconnected, Smith said that Boss had taken on some of Push’s former staff.

“I hoped by combining them things would get a little better, and they did get a little better and had picked up, but it just wasn’t happening quick enough.”

He said that he had looked at further increasing the firm’s borrowings to try to continue to trade through the pandemic, but in the end he said it just wouldn’t have been sustainable.

“It’s not like we had completely run out of money, but we would have if I had kicked the can down the road for a few months, which would have caused all sorts of problems for all sorts of people [customers and suppliers]”.

As a result, he said that as soon as he realised there was no likelihood of a significant and immediate improvement in trading, he decided he should call it a day.

“My ambition is to not leave anyone high and dry; I’m not saying that’s going to be completely possible, but I’ve tried to mitigate that as much as I can.

“It’s been like a perfect storm. It all depends on what parts of the market you’re in, and unfortunately while we were incredibly diverse we were just in the wrong ones and it was impossible to go out and get new business when no one is there.”

In terms of his future plans, Smith said his immediate focus was trying to help to find alternative roles for as many of the Boss team as possible and support the liquidator once appointed to maximise creditor value. Only then would he review his options, he said.

“I’m so smashed up, beaten up and worn out I just need to take some time and have a think about what’s next for me.”

The business ran a 17-year-old six-colour Heidelberg B2 Speedmaster CD 74 alongside an HP Indigo 7900 installed in 2020 and a raft of finishing kit, including foiling and die-cutting.


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