In what way has Brexit affected the printing industry?
Though it is hard to claim that Brexit came as a surprise to any industry in the world, still for a long time nobody has been able to give a univocal answer to the question on what its consequences would be for individual industry sectors. It is true that there were a lot of forecasts, speculations and analyses available but their conclusions were not univocal. Anyway, it would be hard to expect such univocal conclusions bearing in mind an unprecedented nature of the UK’s leaving the EU structures. Brexit did not treat printing industry differently at all. People became nervous, entrepreneurs felt the atmosphere of uncertainty while fears impacted small and big players, manufacturers, distributors and recipients to a various extent.
Dilemmas and anxiety
Lack of knowledge on what the future would bring had been going hand in hand with the printing industry since 2016 and, in fact, prevailed throughout the entire transition period. A natural consequence of such status quo was a business slow-down. Business entities on the printing market were refraining from taking key decisions, were reducing their orders, failed to plan new undertakings observing the course of events and looking for an answer to the question on how negotiations would evolve. However, one could vainly look for some symptoms of predictability, and the political dilemmas stimulated by politicians from different corners of the political scene did not facilitate looking into future at all.
As a consequence of the discussions which were pending both on Brexit and on the final shape of agreements by and between EU and the UK, the industry was also significantly affected by foreign currency fluctuation and accompanying price and margin surge. But these - though having enforced some material business adjustments - turned out to be manageable in the end.
Another impediment to overcome
Finally, the market had to set off as in the long run no entrepreneur could afford to stick around or - all the more - fall behind. Still, 2020 appeared doubly difficult. The consequences of the global pandemic joined anxious, Brexit-related moods.
As shown in the results of analyses, within that period almost 75% of manufacturing entities from the printing industry on the UK market observed significant drop-downs of their financial results; it is difficult, however, to assess unanimously to what extent they were caused by the pandemic and to what extent - by Brexit. After a long-term period of anxiety, as late as in the last quarter of 2020 the situation started to stabilise - the market recovered and was about to look for its place in the new reality.
Proper preparation is the essence
A lot of months appeared to be difficult and stressful. Still, in the end the printing industry was brilliantly successful in coping with challenges. It skilfully and efficiently learnt to react to the dynamics of changes. With no waiting for the situation to become clear, government decisions or subsequent course of events, some leading entities from the printing market started to develop their own strategy. It relied on safeguarding the critical resources. This is how, by filling up warehouses with goods whose shortage would block them in their business, they guaranteed the continuity of production for themselves. Although the costs of operation were not minor, the first problem was solved.
But there soon came another one - the issue of agreements, customs blockades and logistic anxiety related to the restrictions of permissions for vehicles crossing borders. Turbulence kept on evoking transport delays and was affecting the price policy as well as related margins. Luckily, the logistic industry was quick to react and found its ways to flexibly adapt itself to the updated business conditions. To streamline the procedures and shorten the time necessary for their implementation, a lot of business entities, such as Denmaur Paper Media, Premier Paper or Antalis, took care to be awarded with the Approved Economic Operator status. This step, though requiring quite complicated transactions, enabled to solve numerous problems.
What about long-lasting changes?
The printing industry managed perfectly in the short term. Like hardly any, it overruled the anxious situation and found the ways to counteract potential risks and diminish their negative consequences. Still, it is hard to predict whether the market stability will persist in the long run.
It is consoling, though, that in the predictions for incoming months rather no approaching storm is envisaged - if any, it will be a rain shower at the utmost. There are no reasons to think that this is going to change. As we have already managed to work out some pretty efficient cooperation mechanisms, guarantee the continuity of deliveries along with continuity of production, we have also managed to come into control of the problems of staff migration in the employment sector which had also been a victim to Brexit-related turbulence, we may bravely assume that the unspecified future is not going to surprise the printing industry with some gusty changes anymore.
Good perspectives expected
The industry specialists qualify their current mood as “moderate optimism”. Developing new rules in a permanent and giving-the-feeling-of-security way is going to take a while. But there are no reasons to think that we would not manage to achieve what was working so perfectly during the most challenging transition period.
Everything that had happened since the very moment of taking the decision to leave the EU structures in 2016 has caused a range of changes of organisational nature in the printing industry and it seems that, as a result, the methods of business cooperation have been permanently changed. Both manufacturers along with distributors as well as suppliers had to learn to be more flexible.
Long-term planning, counting on predictable forecasts or scrupulous strategies for years have ceased to apply. Perhaps when the situation becomes more stable we will be able to come back to the previous rhythm of work. But today the dynamics of operations in all the industries, in fact, requires efficient reaction. This, however, does not necessarily correspond with the change for the worse - maybe in the long run it occurs that such a style of work brings numerous profits to all interested parties.
How has Hussar Books managed Brexit?
We have been affected by all market difficulties to the same extent as other business entities in the printing industry. There were many not easy and anxious situations which hindered our production, transport and the performance of our agreements. But time has proven that there is a way out from every single difficulty. The reality has encouraged us to look for solutions that maybe we would have never reached for if Brexit had not caused us to do so.
After a while we may now calmly claim that we have managed to come away unscathed from that challenging period. Brexit has induced us in Hussar Books to alter the way of perceiving long-term contracts and production-planning issues. Although we had always been striving to approach every cooperation flexibly, it has taught us to be even more open to a dynamically changing market. Obviously, we are attentively watching everything around us and we are more than certain that after a relatively long term of uncertainty the industry is going to enjoy the stability that we all have been waiting for.