It has been collecting opinions since the referendum in 2016 and at first there was a marginally positive view that things would turn out well. Now the balance of the barometer reads negative 75, indicating that almost nine in ten printers feel unconfident about the post Brexit landscape while only 12% are inclined to feeling positive about it.
This is the lowest reading reported. The previous record was -41 a year ago and results from the government “riding roughshod over business hopes that Government would allay their concerns” says the federation.
That said, the prospect of Brexit has not stopped the seasonal uplift, even if it has put a halt to investment in capital machinery. And that optimism continues into Q4 with more than half anticipating and increase in output volumes during the final three months of the year.
This follows on from a rise in volumes reported by 44% during the three months to the end of September, with just 23% reporting that demand had declined. This increase in orders arrived later than normal and does not mean a boost to margins.
This is shown by the key concerns that printers face. Prime among these is the price of paper and board, two-thirds making this their major current concern. It ousted under cutting by competitors and was also ahead of Brexit as the most important board meeting topic.
If the expectations for the final quarter prove more than whistling for a wind, the final months of 2018 will go down as the best for print since 2015, before the fateful referendum vote.
The BPIF has picked up signs that some companies are stockpiling paper and consumables to mitigate disruption that may follow an exit from the EU. Paper, plate and ink suppliers are also weighing options in this regard.
BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold says: “Stockpiling is not something all companies have the desire space or cash for. However, it is prudent to be knowledgeable about the origins of supplies, the logistical path those supplies take and what measures suppliers are taking to maintain the security and efficiency of the supply chain.”
Volumes of UK produced paper are tiny and most is produced from imported pulp; likewise ink production is down compared to a generation ago and no litho plates are produced in the UK.
“We have ramped up our Brexit related advice,” he continues. “I urge the industry to visit britishprint.com to access this information.”
The immediate horizon is dominated by Brexit with printers showing less confidence that ever before, with a balance of -75 in terms of optimism. Nevertheless production volumes in Q3 were higher than had been anticipated.