29 October 2018 Business

The Halloween nightmare for printers

The undead walk among us, throwing down a challenge to beat them or join them.

This week the streets will be filled with kids clutching buckets to collect sweets and dressed as ghosts, goblins and zombies. None will be dressed as Pete the Cut Price Printer, who is in reality just as scary as anybody from a fictional horror story. Print is experiencing something of a swing back from its much touted extinction to a renewed appreciation of its effectiveness as an advertising channel, of printed books and specialist kick-back-and-relax magazines. But if this applies to print, it does not apply to printers. In the eyes of print buyers, too many printers look like too many other printers, just as one high street department store looks like another high street department store. Pete the Printer is dead.

Shoppers have switched away from the high street to online channels. The experience of visiting under invested stores is simply not enticing and a click, a low price and the arrival of Dmitri from DPD the next day is simply more convenient and more appealing. Some shops will survive. These are the ones that offer a bespoke tailoring service or have created an image that extends beyond the goods that are sold, which perhaps cannot be bought online or are maybe too quirky for a would be Amazon. Just as with overexpanded chains of concept restaurants have found out, the middle of the road is not the place to be.

Nor is it for print. The online model for specifying and buying print is established and can only continue to grow exponentially. The handful of Saville Row printers, offering the highest quality print, will also thrive. It is those that fail to understand they need a valid reason to exist that must suffer: They can remember when they used to be important because they had the most advanced printing press in the region, but that is no longer enough. To today's print buyers, these businesses are now faceless, bland and destined to become zombies, stumbling around, but dead from the neck up.

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