2020: the year the print industry was hit by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with Covid-19, the decline of the high street retailing and God knows what else

2020: the year the print industry was hit by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with Covid-19, the decline of the high street retailing and God knows what else

The relentless toll on the print industry has accelerated in 2020 as firms great and small have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. First the continuing decline of high street retailing with its knock on effect on the industry with fewer shops needing less publicity literature, posters and graphics. Then firms switching to online to list their wares such as Argos and Ikea who have forsaken the printed catalogue along with so many other businesses from the iconic tax disc on car windscreens to a decline in newspapers and magazines.

Then Covid-19 came along with those damaging lockdowns and tier systems that has decimated much of the economy. 2020 has been the most damaging year for the print industry since 1939 when war with Nazi Germany led to paper and ink rationing and restrictions on the print industry.

Black December

Continuous Design Limited of Basildon has called in the administrators following a difficult trading periods. The firm has been in business for 28 years with a portfolio of clients ranging from the arts to Government with a web to print offering which has been seen by some as the future of the business. Now the hunt I is on for a buyer with Glyn Mummery and Julie Humphrey  of FRP Advisory Trading Limited as administrators.

A buy is also being sort for Alexander Print Limited of Surbiton with a meeting of creditors and a winding up petition due on December 21, 2020.  And another meeting to wind up a print company will take place on December 22, when the last rites of Design + Print Limited of Norton Heath will be conducted via Zoom by Sajid Sattar of Greenfield Recovery Limited. The following day will see a meeting of creditors for Cambridge Print and Copy Limited with Christopher David Horner at Robson Scott Associates in the chair.

A year of sorrow

In October the printing industry mourned the collapse of Westdale Press in Cardiff. A meeting of creditors via Zoom took place on November 20 to discuss the fall out from the collapse of Camberley based Lithoxpress Limited. A resolution to wind-up the company is to be considered at the planned general meeting conducted by Kieran Bourne of Cromwell & Co Insolvency Practitioners of Coventry.

Wood Mitchell Printers Limited in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire held a Creditors' Voluntary Liquidation Deemed in Consent Meeting. The firm founded 116 years ago and based at Festival Way took the voluntary liquidation route in an attempt to retain control over the process. Also ths autumn Manchester based Cake Marketing and Advertising appointed liquidators while the once mighty Trinity Mirror (now Reach) of the Daily Mirror fame published places to close two more printing plants with the loss of 150 jobs. Reach said they need to ‘balancing production of its regional and national titles, and contract work’ with the closure of their Luton and Birmingham plants.

Liquidators were appointed in November at Screenprint Limited and STB Printing Limited. Both firms were based in the north of England and saw revenues fall before the Covid-19 pandemic but the down turn in the economy was behind their demise. Another firm to go bust was Tudor Bookbinding but the Wigston outfit re-emerged as Tudor Print Finishing, Hand Finishing & Bookbinding.

Trade shows

The Print Show, Fespa and Drupa were all pulled until next year with the dates moved progressively back as the Covid crisis continued.

Writing on the Print Show’s website the director Chris Davies said: “We have made the difficult decision to postpone The Print Show 2020 and The Sign Show 2020 until next year, due to the ongoing novel coronavirus (Covid-19) situation in the UK. The safety of exhibitors and visitors is our number one priority and though this was not an easy choice, we believe it to be the right course of action. However, we are delighted to confirm that The Print Show and The Sign Show will both take place in 2021. The shows will run from September 28th to 30th at the NEC in Birmingham and we will publish further updates as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile Drupa have moved their show back a year in Germany and Fespa has shifted their exhibition to the Netherlands in the spring.

More go bust plus Spicers collapse

Others to hit the buffers this year included Neville Thurlbeck’s public relations company Clear Vista, Bertrams Books, Crawley based DCL Print Limited, Fox Marketing, Tactical Solutions and Flare, Thomas Loughlin (Liverpool), and the big shock in stationery was the collapse of the Spicers Office Team.

On Spicers Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said it was the worst possible news as the list of suppliers in danger of not getting paid was ‘horrendous.’ He said: “We flagged this up last month as a problem and advised members to stop granting credit to Spicers and insist on immediate payment of overdue invoices. Some have made progress on that front using our free legal letters and debt collection service but if Spicers goes then it will be on the same level as North Star when they went to the wall.”

Jo Francis of Print Week said: “SPOT had sales of £281m in its most recent accounts, for 2018. Restructuring and other costs resulted in a near-£26m operating loss. The business had around 1,440 employees at the time. This morning (29 April) SPOT’s owner Better Capital announced that it planned to hold an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) and was proposing to cancel its listing on the London Stock Exchange. Its two funds were due to run until June 2021, but the Covid-19 situation has adversely affected its investments.”

The end for trend in 2019

Established in the dying days of Victorian England the printing company Latimer Trend and Company was founded producing leaflets, flyers, periodicals and stationery for customers in the British Empire. Some 130 years later the company as had the excruciating humiliation of going bust in a very 21st century way owing somewhere north of £4.5m.

The workforce of 80 were unceremoniously ‘let go’ with unpaid salaries and bonuses to the tune of more than half a million pounds.

Jo Francis writing for the trade magazine Print Week highlighted the state of play for the unsecured creditors following the collapse followed by administrators Sandra Mundy and Thomas Russell of James Cowper Kreston taking charge and going through the books.

She reported: “The administrators’ report states that secured creditors included Close Brothers Asset Finance and RBS Invoice Finance. RBS will receive payment in full-from the book debts, after existing orders for two major publishing customers were completed during the administration moratorium.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said the whole affair was a sorry story that had become all too common. He said: “We have been aware of the ongoing crisis at Latimer Trend and our thoughts go to the staff who have lost their jobs and everyone who tried to save the historic business. Sadly when debts pile up they become a burden and with the changing nature of the printing industry and a general downturn in business it created a perfect storm.”

The list of creditors makes for eye watering reading with the Close Brothers owed £3m, the finance director £380,000, HMRC £230,00 and unsecured creditors more than £3m.



The London firm based on Ruston Road is to have an online meeting of creditors on 22 December - with convener Mark West Director.

Nominated Liquidators, Paul Bailey and Tommaso Waqar Ahmad of Bailey Ahmad Business Recovery, of Kent.

About ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

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For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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