Paper merchants gear up for election in face of supply squeeze

Paper suppliers are pulling out all the stops to ensure sufficient stocks will be available to meet the spike in demand due to the upcoming general election.

Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap general election for 8 June on 18 April, a seven week run-up to the ballot box.

Julian Townsend, sales director at Denmaur Independent Papers, warned that longer lead times on some types of paper could impact supplies. “The lead time on uncoated woodfree offset paper has gone out to eight-to-12 weeks, whereas it would normally be four-to-five weeks,” he said. “People could struggle to get large quantities of specific papers. It might be that people will need to be persuaded to use a slightly different type of paper if they think they need uncoated.”

The merchanting industry has swung into action to cope with likely demand.

“As soon as it was announced we contacted those who we know are involved in the printing and went back over our records from the last election,” said James Jarvis, Antalis channel director for print, sign and display. “We have identified quite a range of products which we think will be used, about 60 line items in total.

“We then checked our stocks on each of them and increased our order quantities and diverted as much work in progress to them. Luckily we have high UK stock holding with £30m currently invested,” he added.

Premier Paper group marketing director David Jones said a number of factors were causing the squeeze on supplies, including buoyant Far East markets resulting in producers there selling to their own domestic markets. “This is causing increased demand on European mills from European merchants who usually rely on Far East suppliers,” he explained.

In addition, Jones said that Chinese paper is now subject to tariffs in Australia, resulting in Australian buyers placing orders with European suppliers.

“Significant manufacturing capacity has been taken out by European mills over recent years and paper demand has not fallen at the same rate,” he noted. “It remains a tight market with extended lead times for the above reasons, but we do not anticipate paper shortages.”

Jarvis added: “It’s our intention to support our customers to pick up as much election work as possible during a period which is undoubtedly an unexpected bonus to the print trade.”

Birmingham-based Bakergoodchild has already produced some election-related print, and aims to capitalise on likely demand with a promotional offer to MPs. It is offering free postage on the first direct mail campaign it produces for any MP.

“It is at times like this when our services and we as a business step up to the fore. We expect the demand and in our new base and with recent investment, are ready and more than able to handle it,” said managing director Lorraine Burnell.

A spike in demand for printed collateral is expected once the manifestoes are published.



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