A trade body representing the UK print industry has published the results of its survey of members during the first days of the coronavirus crisis and its effect on business.

The results are shocking with 74% of respondents reporting a ‘considerable downturn’ while the average number of orders was down 65% in the British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF) report.

BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold said : “It is bleak and it reflects the fact that the economy has been shut down and the sectors that have been instructed to close represent a significant part of the [print] client base.”

Charles Jarrold

Reporting for the trade magazine Print Week Jo Francis wrote: “Some parts of the printing industry, such as food and pharma packaging and those supplying the NHS and public services, remain as busy or busier than usual. But the government-mandated shutdown of general retailers, pubs, restaurants, leisure facilities and the property market has had a huge impact on printers. A staggering 74% of respondents to the survey reported a ‘considerable downturn’ in order levels, while the average change in order levels from the usual monthly level was down 65%. One print boss told Printweek that his company’s sales were currently running at just 15% of normal levels.”

The BPIF said the respondents represented sales of £3.1bn and more than 22,000 employees took part. The survey was carried out jointly with stationery and office supplies federation Boss, and ran from 23 March to 6 April.

Ian Carrotte

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said the group had many members involved in the printing industry and the survey accurately reflected the feedback he had received. He said: “The industry has been contracting for several years with several big names only just surviving so this crisis is set to damage printers along with many of their customers. Less than 10% of firms who have applied for the Government’s Coronavirus Interruption loans have been successful with the banks turning away perfectly sound businesses. What the printing industry needs is more targeted help and lots of Government coronavirus information campaigns using print rather than social media as there are thousands of jobs at risk.”

The BPIF Summary

Over one-third (36%) of respondents have experienced considerable disruption to their supply chain as a result of Coronavirus.

40% are confident (‘very’ or ‘somewhat’) that supply chains will be maintained. However, comments allude that supply chain security is more at risk as staff shortages increase and a dichotomy between firms remaining operational and others shutting down stresses supply chains.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) or respondents have reported a ‘considerable downturn’ in order levels. The average change in order levels, from the expected monthly level, was -65%.

40% of firms are ‘extremely concerned’ about the short-term* survival of their clients’ businesses (*next three months).

On average 27% of responding firms’ business is supporting critical services (in the food, pharmaceutical, health & social care, education, public services and local government sectors).

Just over one-third of respondents (34%) are ‘extremely concerned’ about the short-term survival of their own business. Slightly more, 38% are ‘extremely concerned’ about long-term* survival (*beyond six months).

Nearly one-quarter (23%) have reported a significant increase in bad debt exposure. Furthermore, 71% have experienced debtors withholding payment due to the uncertainty.

Over three-quarters (77%) require some degree of emergency assistance to maintain cashflow, cover costs and survive – 38% stated that they require this assistance either ‘immediately’ or ‘in the next week or two’.

Over one-quarter (27%) have already made redundancies – for these companies the level of redundancies averaged at 41% of the workforce.

Further redundancies are expected (18% ‘definitely’, 22% ‘probably’ and 29% ‘maybe’) in the short-term. The average expected level of redundancies is 37% of the workforce.

A majority of companies have implemented Covid-19 prevention measures, the most common being social distancing (91%), working from home (86%), banning visitors (74%), banning off-site meetings (69%) and banning business travel (65%).

Regarding ratings of the Government’s response – the extensiveness and timeliness of the Government’s support measures have received positive ratings, on balance. However, access to this support has received a negative rating. 15% selecting ‘very poor’ and 26% ‘poor’ clearly outweighs the 20% selecting ‘good’ and 2% ‘very good’.

The most commonly suggested additional support from Government is extended grant support and business rates relief (78%) and a deferment of VAT, PAYE and NIC payments (77%).

ICSM Credit

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