Trade printers adjust to new world order

Jo Francis
Monday, July 13, 2020

A number of UK trade printers are among the latest industry firms to reshape their businesses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Trade printers are taking stock of new operating landscape
Trade printers are taking stock of new operating landscape

Dundee-based Tradeprint has announced that 50 roles, around 30% of its 164-strong workforce, are at risk of redundancy.

Managing director Charlene Douglas said the past three months had been “challenging for most businesses” including Tradeprint, which is part of the giant Cimpress global web-to-print business and is its only UK-based print operation.

“This had been an extremely tough decision to make but unfortunately its necessary to protect our future financial health,” she said.

The consultation is expected to conclude this week.

Douglas said the firm was “exploring all options to minimise the number of positions which will be made redundant”.

“The support, dedication and flexibility of our staff has been truly humbling which makes this process so very difficult.”

“We have all worked tirelessly over the last three months to spin up and manufacture a range of relevant Covid products to supplement the core of our business which was significantly impacted by the pandemic,” she added.

“The innovation and lightning speed demonstrated within the whole industry has been inspiring.  Since many lock down restrictions have been lifted the figures have been encouraging, yet inconsistent,  but we remain confident we can recover from this pandemic healthier than where we were before and build our business and headcount up once again.”

Tradeprint posted sales of £15.1m and a bottom line loss of £2.8m in the financial year to 30 June 2019, but the firm said it had scrapped unprofitable product lines and expected future EBITDA to improve as a result.

Portsmouth-based Bishops Printers said that its hopes of achieving a record-breaking year in 2020 had been thwarted by the effects of the pandemic. 

Managing director Gareth Roberts said: “Our ‘event driven print’ has naturally been severely depressed and although we are starting to see recovery – with volumes rising towards 50% of norm in July – we do not see a ‘V shaped’ return to normal trading. 

“It was therefore evident in early May that we would need to restructure throughout all parts of the business to remain viable.  Sadly, this has meant approaching 30% of our 270 strong workforce being made redundant since we simply don’t believe we can carry the additional staff without the work we normally expect for the remainder of the calendar year.”

He said the process, now completed, had been especially difficult as a family-run business that had many workers with their own family connections including “husbands and wives, brothers and sons, parents and siblings”.

“This has been a painful process which we hope we have done sympathetically and professionally – taking care to communicate well and only make the decisions we feel are absolutely necessary to position us for the new landscape.”

Roberts said the £27.8m turnover B2 sheetfed specialist was fortunate to be in a strong financial position prior to the pandemic taking hold. “By taking sensible, albeit incredibly painful, steps now we will continue to be so once the initial economic shock has subsided,” he stated.

“We’re grateful to the support of our trade clients on whom we hugely rely, and with their support I expect to be managing growth rather than decline in the months to come.”

Midsomer Norton headquartered Integrity Print, the UK’s largest trade printer, has also taken steps to reshape its business due to the effects of Covid-19.

Managing director Mark Cornford said that around 40 positions were going at Midsomer Norton plus a further 30 across other group companies, equating to around 15% of the overall workforce.

“With some of our products Covid-19 has accelerated the move to digital [online] channels from printed products, and some of the things that have been impacted for that reason won’t switch back,” he explained.

Other clients were “switching work back on” but not at the same volumes, “and the new world requirements are different to the old”.

Approximately 75% of the roles going at the £57m turnover business will be through voluntary redundancy.

Cornford also said that demand for some product types – such as delivery notes for online retailers – had surged during lockdown.

“I’m proud of how we’ve come through this and think we will come out of it stronger, having learned things during the pandemic,” he stated. 

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