Polestar: one year on

By Jo Francis, Tuesday 25 April 2017

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A year on from the collapse of Polestar, UK printers remain hopeful of winning back some of the work that migrated to the continent – and remained there – after the group’s failure.


Polestar: Sheffield supersite closed completely

Polestar UK Print and Polestar Stones-Wheatons went into administration on 25 April 2016, just four weeks after the controversial pre-pack sale to Proventus Capital Partners.

In the hiatus that followed, a number of publishers were forced to seek new printing arrangement outside of the UK.

Bauer, Guardian Media Group, Hearst, Hello!, Northern & Shell, Shortlist Media and Trinity Mirror all ended up printing titles on the continent that had previously been printed by Polestar.

“The Polestar situation happened so quickly, there wasn’t enough capacity on the day to accommodate it all. Now there is more capacity again in the UK,” said Walstead Group chief executive Paul Utting. “Some of that work is being repatriated now and will continue to do so if the exchange rate remains at current levels.”

As well as the exchange rate variables, transport costs and the timings involved are viewed as downsides to continental production.

One paper supplier told PrintWeek: “The general vibe is that things are coming back. Some people have been caught out by the complexities of printing outside of the UK. With deadlines being pushed to the max and having to do things earlier, it’s easy to miss something like an insertion deadline.”

The new owners of GD Web Offset in Rotherham, formerly Garnett Dickinson, have also expressed a desire to win back work from overseas as part of the business plan for that operation.

A senior industry source commented: “A lot of contracts went out to the continent on short-term contracts. There is a lot of activity at the moment.”

Polestar’s failure resulted in the closure of all of the group’s gravure capacity along with the two 96pp web presses at its Sheffield site, with Prinovis in Liverpool the main beneficiary as a result. It has also been printing Shortlist magazine since January.

YM Group has recently commissioned the Goss Sunday 5000 64pp short-grain press from Polestar Sheffield at its YM Chantry facility in Wakefield. The press has inline and ribbon stitching, and the site also took two Ferags from Sheffield, providing a considerable amount of high-speed production capability that is suitable for high-volume, time-sensitive products. 

“We recognise there is an opportunity for work to return to the UK, and have been in discussions with a number of potential customers about how YM Group can help," said YM Group chief executive Stephen Goodman. 

Roto Smeets and CirclePrinters, two of the continental printers that benefited from Polestar’s collapse, have since merged. The deal was completed earlier this month when CirclePrinters Holdings acquired 100% of the shares in Roto Smeets Group.

“Further consolidation is likely, and the players that remain the strongest will survive,” Utting added.


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