Print holding strong in face of Christmas slowdown fears

By Max Goldbart, Thursday 23 November 2017

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Despite subdued output predictions from the BPIF’s Printing Outlook survey, printers have so far reported solid sales in the run-up to Christmas.

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Personalised and luxury Advent calendars are seeing a spike in sales this year

In the survey released earlier this month, the BPIF reported on a solid Q3 positive output balance of +15 (the difference between those who increased output levels compared to those who decreased), but the +14 forecast for Q4, if realised, will be the weakest for five years.

BPIF research manager Kyle Jardine told PrintWeek: “We don’t know what the actual results will be for Q4 but I guess the expectations for the quarter weren’t as you would expect they would be. This seemed to be because the trade in the previous quarter had been so up and down it was hard for people to have too much confidence about what was going to happen in the next quarter.”

Jardine, however, downplayed the prediction and said there could well still be a strong seasonal sales boost, which became apparent from a number of companies that PrintWeek contacted, and PrintWeek also reported last week on this year’s seasonal trend, personalised and luxury Advent calendars, which are seeing a spike in sales. 

Gloucester-based Alpha Colour Printers last month doubled its digital capacity with the installation of a new Heidelberg Versafire CV digital press and is also anticipating the installation of new letterpress kit in the coming weeks. 

Repro manager Luke Ostle said greetings card orders in particularly had been “crazy” and that runs are growing enough to migrate over to litho. 

“It’s been really busy for us, I’ve been here for 20 years and it’s one of the busiest run-ins to Christmas I’ve seen in a long time,” said Ostle.

“We’re seeing smaller greetings card companies growing into larger ones. You’ve got to start somewhere, start with short runs, see how they sell and once they get their orders in they move forward and get some larger quantities done.” 

Leicester-based Taylor Bloxham Group, which has just invested in a new Koenig & Bauer Rapida 106 litho press, due for delivery next Easter, also reported full Christmas capacity.

“I know that’s not potentially reflective of the market and is reflective of a couple of significant client jobs we’ve got in but we are very busy at the moment, which is good,” said chief executive Robert Lockwood.

Colchester-based Rose Calendars also highlighted a strong order book, for both traditional calendars - as “customers come back to calendars”, according to marketing manager Elizabeth Rose - as well as for its new VR 360 landscape calendar range. 

“This year is a very busy time of year for us, we’re producing calendars all year and have a process here that works, in a well-oiled way, and have been doing that since 1908,” said Rose. 

“We are established in these patterns and are not last-minute merchants.”

On the smaller scale, Hertfordshire-based The Print Factory’s Christmas card sideline for schools has seen orders from local schools increase 20% and it is on track to produce 2 million cards between late October and early December.

Managing director Chris Lunnon said: “We have more orders this year than last year and are noticing a rise in orders from the schools.  We went down two years ago and then last year and this year it’s spiked back up. There’s a bit more confidence in the market, a little bit more money about.”

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