Printers mothball ops, flag potential to repurpose capacity

Some printers have begun shuttering their operations due to the virus crisis, with work being diverted to trade print specialists and the potential for some under-utilised kit to be used for in-demand items such as packaging.

Craftprint decked its premises in supportive posters before its temporary closure
Craftprint decked its premises in supportive posters before its temporary closure

Giftwrap and stationery giant IG Design Group announced this morning (25 March) that manufacturing in the UK and Europe had been suspended temporarily.

The group produces Christmas crackers, giftwrap, greetings cards, stationery and creative play products. It has a large manufacturing site in South Wales that previously operated 24/7.

In a statement, the firm said it was confident of its ability to weather the situation: “It is important to note that the critical ordering period for customers for the Christmas season is between January to May each year, and the company has already built a substantial order book for Christmas 2020 with its biggest customers. Alongside this, it is anticipated that the Group's diversity across category, channel and geography will provide resilience in the current environment,” it stated.

A number of independent printers across the country have temporarily closed in light of the Covid-19 situation. John Brailsford Printers in Rotherham, where boss John Brailsford recently committed to keep paying employees throughout the crisis, decided to shut up shop after prime minister Boris Johnson announced wider restrictions to curb transmission of the virus on Monday evening.

In a post on the firm’s Facebook page Brailsford said: “I have made the decision following the government's guidelines that all our employees will stay safe at home with their families. No employees will be travelling to our premises or endangering others in the process.

“Whilst this will impact our business it is essential that we do as we are asked by the government. The sooner that we comply, the sooner things will get back to some kind of normality.”

Boss Print in west London has halted operations for the time being, with managing director Fenton Smith offering to make his facilities available for essential print such as packaging should it be required. The award-winning firm usually produces high-end creative print including books and brochures.

He told Printweek that demand for the company’s usual work had understandably slowed down because of the Covid-19 situation: “I have also taken a moral view that what we produce is not essential and therefore cannot instruct my staff to come to work for non-essential purposes,” he stated.

“However, we have a CD press, which can easily print carton work and packaging. I would be more than happy to redeploy my production capacity and help out in this time of need and become an essential supplier, and I know my staff would too.”

He said Boss Print and other companies in a similar situation could redeploy their services if requirements outstripped current supply, or if companies currently printing for essential items were impacted because of employees being off sick or isolating.

Other printers that have mothballed their operations for the time being include:

  • QPS Print in Stoke on Trent, which has temporarily closed, saying: "We love ink, time to close for now."
  • Craftprint in Bolton, which before closing its doors decked its windows in posters supporting the NHS and urging people to do their bit by following government advice.
  • Ellison Printing in Blackburn, which temporarily closed its doors yesterday after 49 years of continuous service. 

Elsewhere, Grafenia chief executive Peter Gunning said the firm had switched the way its high street Nettl stores worked and they were now all operating remotely.

“We are still servicing clients and we upgraded to make it easy for clients to request a call back or video chat. People are still ordering,” he explained.

Trade printing wing Marqetspace is still operating remotely. “All our systems are online, and we’re using Slack to keep the whole company in communication with each other.”

Rotherham-based online trade printing giant Route 1 Print issued a bulletin saying that its factory was still very much open.

It said: “When everything feels like it’s changing, one thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to you. We are here for you and we are never more than a phone call away (but definitely more than 2 metres).”

“In line with government guidance, our entire office team are working from home. During this time, our factory remains fully operational with additional social distancing measures in place to protect the welfare of our staff.”

Managing director Adam Carnell told Printweek: "We know that many of our clients are part of the NHS critical supply chain and we are continuing to support our clients as normal during this time. We are also actively contacting all clients they have to alleviate any concerns they have. During this changing time what hasn’t changed is our commitment to our clients, our team and our industry.

"We understand a number of print shops have had to close their front doors and with this in mind, we have expanded our offering to support our customers during this time including: multi-address dispatch (yesterday we completed one of 1,000 addresses), new products (including a stitch booklet with a presentation folder for a cover), variable data, direct mail, pack and collate and many more. We are happy to work with anyone in the print industry to support where we can during this time and always."


Printweek is collating information for a possible matchmaking service, in line with Fenton Smith's comments above. Please email with the subject line 'matchmaking' and a brief description of your services/equipment if you would like to be included. We will publish this information on


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