Print SME outlook confident despite turbulent year ahead

By Rhys Handley, Monday 11 February 2019

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Printers are among SMEs in the manufacturing sector that remain confident about the outlook for 2019, even in the face of economic instability and uncertainty from Brexit.

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Printers are investing and diversifying in the face of Brexit

The latest MHA Manufacturing and Engineer report shows that companies including printers are benefiting from increased customer demand (18%), diversification (14%) and a wider product range (13%).

Benefits from growth drivers are offsetting the concerns of many businesses facing rising production costs, caused by rising raw material prices, wage costs and energy bills. Even the onset of Brexit, less than 50 days away, leaves many businesses undeterred.

Dumfries-based Solway Print managing director Amanda Creedon Bass said: “I feel confident about the year ahead. We have already spoken to two or three brand new customers that may prove to be very lucrative.

“Though there is a dark cloud that may not lift for a while because of Brexit, it does not really affect our business much as we do not really export. I have not seen a single seminar or webinar that fully applies to our business.

“I have started a marketing campaign that reflects our confidence and it is already paying off in more business. I suppose the main concerns are paper, ink and fuel costs, but so long as we charge customers a fair price, I believe we can claw back the difference.”

St Austell operation Nationwide Print has also entered the new year boldly, having already invested in a to-be-revealed new digital press that will arrive in March.

Managing director Julian Hocking said: “We are hoping for a very successful year – more work, more customers, more investment, more everything. We would not have invested in this new press if we did not believe it would pay off.

“If I relied on Westminster to know what to do with my business, I would already be in my coffin. We cannot sit still while they prevaricate, so we have invested in our digital side.

“As with any sector, print is competitive and this will be a demanding year in every sense, but you have to react to that and do what you think is necessary – be quicker and better and find your niche.”

While printers have kicked off 2019 in relatively buoyant condition, the unknowable risks of a Brexit deal that is still yet to be finalised are not lost on business leaders. The need to grow businesses into new and unique territories has become a popular strategy for making sure firms are fortified against the possible turbulence.

David Harris, director at Bilston’s John Harris Printers, said: “Every year is different. With Brexit on the horizon, this is going to be a challenging year and we are trying to do something different and quirk in order to get more attention in the market.

“Prices in paper have gone up dramatically and some of the weaker printers have already gone so this will simply be a case of survival of the fittest. We have been loyal to our paper supplier for 15 years and so I feel we are in good stead.

“We have introduced the A4 landscape digital brochure and the A4 eight-page roll-fold brochure to our portfolio and we have taken control of the overs by not printing more sheets than we need to. We rode out the instability of the recession 10 years ago and I am sure we will come out the other end here once the clients overcome their nervousness.”

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