Don’t drop prices if things go tits up

By Darryl Danielli, Monday 10 April 2017

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Sad news from Essex, with what looks like the imminent demise of the UK’s largest single-site commercial sheetfed printer, Anton Group.

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PrintWeek editor Darryl Danielli

It’s a sad story on so many levels, most painfully for the 300 or so staff who, until recently, were the proprietors of the business in an Employee Ownership Trust.

But also because in the not-so-distant past Anton was one of the companies held up as an example of a modern business that continually invested in new technology, and no big trade show was complete without a photo op unveiling a seven- or eight-figure investment.

As recently as four years ago it was still making pretty decent profits, but it seems that its last big investment programme was around the same time as its last meaningful profit.

If there are underlying problems with a business, throwing significant capex at them won’t necessarily make them go away, of course.

But if you’re operating on a wafer-thin margin in an over-supplied sector then when other short-term challenges come into play and the only way to keep the presses turning is to drop prices, then the end, as proven here, can come all too quickly.

At the time of writing, Deloitte said it still hoped to find a buyer for all or part of the business, but with more than half the staff gone and customers already welcomed into the warm bosoms of their new suppliers: it seems a very forlorn hope.

Perhaps a more realistic hope should be that those that have taken on the ex-Anton work were prepared to have the tricky conversations with their new clients, if or when necessary, about the perils of placing print on unsustainable prices.

And if it falls on deaf ears, hopefully they will tell them to find some other boobies to do their print.

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