Veteran investor buys Barnard & Westwood

Jo Francis
Friday, February 12, 2021

Historic printer Barnard & Westwood is beginning its centenary year under fresh ownership after veteran retail entrepreneur Maurice Bennett CBE acquired the business.

B&W: keen to expand its offering to the trade as firms come out of the pandemic
B&W: keen to expand its offering to the trade as firms come out of the pandemic

The London-based fine printer and bookbinder holds Royal Warrants with Her Majesty the Queen and HRH the Prince of Wales. It printed the invitations for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Barnard & Westwood (B&W) had been owned by an Employee Benefit Trust since 2015. Like many printing companies, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic hit expected business levels at the company.

Bennett came to know about the firm through an acquaintance and was captivated by the specialist skills involved in its work.

He said: “The company reflects the very best in our country’s craftsmanship. I firmly believe that there is a need for the continuity of production of beautiful printing to mark special events, business cards and unique commissions for individuals and businesses from all over the world.

“I am very proud to be part of the Barnard & Westwood team. Key for their development will be to secure the existing skill set and ensure that its passed on through the recruitment of apprentices.”

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

B&W director Alasdair Abrines said that although the Employee Trust had been disbanded as a result of the acquisition, Bennett’s other business investments typically involved an element of shares for employees and staff and this was in the process of being finalised.

B&W employs around 15 staff and had sales of £1.6m prior to the pandemic. It has furloughed workers and used the flexible furlough scheme to bring specific parts of its operation back into production during the Covid-19 restrictions as and when production was required, and allowing for Covid-secure working in its workshop.

“There’s no doubt work is a lot lower than it was – events are currently completely dead,” Abrines added. “But we still have fashion and retail work coming through, including for our e-commerce clients.”

B&W’s specialist craft services include letterpress, foil blocking, die stamping, embossing, gilding, hand finishing, box making, case-bound bookbinding and book restoration; as well as more modern processes such as digital and litho printing.

“We are keen to expand our offering with the trade as we come out of the pandemic. We didn’t do much of that in the past, but we do so many niche processes in-house – it’s about how we can all help each other as work comes back.”

The business was founded in 1921 by Albert Barnard. Abrines said that he hoped the firm would be able to celebrate is centenary properly later in the year.

Managing director Austen Kopley, one of three generations of Kopleys to have run the company over the years, has stepped back from day-to-day operations for health reasons but is still working as a consultant to the firm.

Bennett was the co-founder of the Warehouse and Oasis fashion businesses.

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