Volumes of print are through the floor after an unprecedented plunge following the government's announcement of lock down restrictions across the UK for an indefinite period. Printers in retail, entertainment, hospitality and tourism have been especially badly hit, though a few have escaped. And in all likelihood much of this work will never return.
Whether volumes eventually come back is difficult to say, though any recovery will take time, too long for many printers. The optimists predict that 1,000 printers may close before the end of the year. Some newspapers and magazines have gone forever; in other areas opportunities will arise. Most are opportunities that will be due to the efforts of printers to create their own print. Printers can ill afford to wait for orders for come in the door or for a request for a meeting with a key buyer to be granted.
Print needs to look elsewhere for work. Some printers for example are using equipment they have to produce protective facemasks for healthcare workers. Not even the entrepreneurial Jon Tolley could have predicted that Prime Group and later colleagues at ProCo and Precision would be in the personal protective equipment business. Necessity is the mother of invention and Mrs Tolley, an intensive care nurse, its inspiration.
There are other opportunities out there to use the skills learned in printing and the equipment print has to head in completely new directions. Companies need to find and create print that did not exist before: clothing, wall decoration, electronics, through tie ups with photographers who can sell their work via websites, designers that show their wares on Etsy, producers of new types of signage or logistics. Inspiration and an open mind is needed.
The coming weeks and months will provide the space for business leaders to investigate, to learn, to search for these new ideas and markets for printers. It has happened in the past: successful printers were frequently those that challenged the status quo and found new ways to produce different types of work. These may never match the volumes that printed books and magazines enjoyed. Those days have gone. It should not mean that print too must disappear.