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Sat, Feb

News that Pimlico Plumbers is to rewrite the contracts of its more than 250 employees and require them to be vaccinated against coronavirus, or lose their jobs, has set off a ripple of uncertainty through the business world. As employment lawyer Alec Colson of Taylor says, “In short, compulsory vaccines is a legal minefield and employers will need to be very careful how they approach the matter.” Is it something you are thinking about?

At the end of last week Navigator announced a 6-8% increases in paper prices in USA. A bit earlier in the week the European Printing Ink Association issued a warning that “various pressures are likely to impact the printing inks market” – so, I’m taking these to be indications that we’re in for consumables price hikes. Publicly, manufacturers/suppliers are being quite quiet on that front. Are you hearing otherwise privately?

Mmmm…just had an email flagging up a ‘Crisis Communications Digital Workshop’ taking place in May that will “provide practical insights on how to prepare for and respond to a crisis from a communications perspective”. It’s being organised by Westminster Insight, which delivers events “that are timely and relevant to the government agenda and challenges of today and tomorrow”. Methinks they’re a bit late off the mark when it comes to preparing for crisis more than a year after Covid-19 hit these shores, but have any of you made use of such webinars since the pandemic began - and are there subject areas where you’d like to see still more?

It is interesting to see that FaberExposize UK for one is preparing for work to ramp-up again from the exhibitions and events markets. What are your thoughts on these two key wide-format markets? Will we ever see the volumes - maybe more importantly, the margins - this sector was enjoying from that type of work pre Covid-19?

Agfa is opening a new UK showroom next month - which makes me wonder about manufacturers’ best routes to market with products that really require you to witness their capabilities before buying. Plenty of people are telling me that trade shows are old hat, that virtual shows don’t do much for them, and that they don’t want to be ‘sold’ to – so what would suit you best?

Interior décor - what’s in that for you? I ask because for years now we’ve been bombarded with info/comment on what a huge opportunity it is for digital printers. And of course it is - the tech can do so much. But when I speak with MDs of large-format print companies, route to market is often a sticking point, with many saying there are easier ways of diversifying and improving turnover. Has the Covid-19 landscape ‘encouraged’ more of you to invest resources in reaching new customer-bases, perhaps for interiors, rather than relying on ‘up-selling’ new print products to your existing (if indeed they do still exist!) customers?

Do you find ‘greenwashing’ a problem when it comes to the sustainability of print? Since 2010, the Two Sides campaign has successfully influenced the change or removal of misleading environmental claims about print by more than 700 organisations, including many of the world’s largest corporations. That’s great news - though there is still a long way to go. But what is the attitude of these large organisations towards graphics print? It would be good to have some measure of that - not that I can see an obvious way of garnering that type of info. Can you?

Canon is setting out on a new five-year plan as it seeks to regain the profits it’s lost during Covid-19. How far ahead are you daring to plan? I’m wondering how much value you think there is in looking beyond 2021?

As you know, we’ve put back our 2021 Widthwise Survey of large-format print companies until Easter, so that we get a better idea of how the extended furlough scheme and Brexit etc are impacting you all. Are there any particular questions you’d like me to ask? Let me know what grassroots data would be of most benefit to you this year and I’ll do my best to deliver.

Is speed still of the essence? Speed of print kit, speed of delivery to customer, speed of innovation…please mark 1-3 and let me have your answers. I have a few bob riding on what comes out top of the list!

Apparently it’s National Hugging Day today, so I hope I’m not overstepping the mark by sending you all a virtual one - think we all need a bit of tender, loving care at the minute. Are you doing anything particularly unusual to lift the spirits of your workforce? I’d love to hear about it if you are.

Are you working from home, and will you continue to do so more regularly even when this pandemic is over? I ask in light of data from New Street Consulting Group - see today’s news story. What about the rest of your staff – are you already re-evaluating their on-site working requirement or playing a waiting game?

A company called Pencil has launched online video advertising that is able to learn via AI technology, and thus deliver better results for brands. Over 10 million advertisers bought over $80bn worth of Facebook ads last year, and all indications are for growth. How do you feel about how online ad. development is likely to impact printed advertising spend.

 

At the end of last year Imageco received part funding from the European Regional Development Fund and the Northern Powerhouse Growth Deal to replace the remaining half of its 2800m2 factory with LED lighting - an investment that MD Nathan Swinson Bullough says will pay for itself in three years. More importantly, he adds, it equates to another huge reduction in the company’s CO2 emissions. The point of telling you this is that, as he recently pointed out to his LinkedIn pals, there are lots of grants available for projects like this - so as customers focus more on the environmental credentials of their supply chain perhaps now’s a good time to investigate?

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