Overcapacity dogs the industry still


So, what are the lessons to be learned from the collapse last week of Howard Hunt and the sad loss of 250 jobs?

Much like with the demise of similarly scaled Anton Group a couple of years ago, many will be quick to blame a lack of recent investment resulting in the firm fighting a losing battle against ever diminishing margins in the commodity driven long-run mailing market. Which, presumably, left precious little in the kitty to upgrade kit and workflows to improve efficiency and, of course, said margins or, better still, move into new higher margin markets.

Equally, like Anton, despite it taking decades of blood, sweat and tears to build a print powerhouse with sales of more than £50m, the end came frighteningly quickly.

However, to be fair, while the main Howard Hunt (City) business may have fallen behind many of its peers in terms of investing in inkjet technology, in other areas – such as data and customer engagement and insight services – it was arguably well ahead of the pack. As evidenced by Paragon’s willingness to take on the print business’s sister operations.

So, comparison’s with Anton are by and large unfair in all but one respect: that the business’s circa £50m of print will likely be swallowed up with barely a burp by the industry at large.

Which means that the key learning will most likely be that overcapacity continues to be the single biggest blight facing print, like traditional mass mailings, where volumes are falling.

And if you find yourself in a market where the opportunity to add value to your product or service and reinvest in your business is limited by that market’s unhealthy focus on the pound spent rather than the pound potentially earned, then the lesson is: find some new markets. Quick.

 

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