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Business

Back to the future in 1992

As the new year begins with the potential of new technology, new products and new innovations within the printing industry, it is worth a moment or two to reflect on what was in the minds of printers a few years ago.

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It was the autumn of Black Wednesday and high interest rates

By chance, I came across a copy of Litho Week (published by Haymarket) from November 1992 and flicked through the pages to see what caught the eye then. It was the era of the John Major Government, high interest rates and a time that was largely before the arrival of email and the internet. Some senior members of the industry will tell you that before the internet, the printing industry was an agreeable way to make a living with profits somewhat higher than they are today. But in many ways not much has changed – at least as far as news is concerned, as the issues reported back then are not much different from those of today.

Bracknell Magazines had gone into receivership leaving printers, repro houses and paper suppliers with unpaid bills of more than £2m. There was also considerable anger in the press over the demise of Falcon Litho, because as Karen Buchanan reported at the time, the boss Bob Frost simply set up shop ‘with a clean slate’ a week later. In her comment column, she wrote: “We feel strongly that the case of Falcon Litho illustrates the plight of small creditors and will campaign vigorously to see creditors are treated as more than second class citizens.”

Although there have been some changes to the laws regarding insolvencies sadly unsecured creditors are often still left unpaid.

John Major was Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1992

Another perennial of the print trade press that sees little change is the continued hike in prices for consumables. Back in 1992, David Pryke of the National Association of Paper Merchants defended an increase in paper prices in a letter, following criticism of the increases planned by Colin Stanley. Stanley had reacted strongly to the rises, as inflation hit more than 3.7 percent having been nearly 10 percent just two years earlier. This year prices are again expected to go up by more than inflation, putting pressure on margins and the bottom line. Pryke’s argument was that there had been a huge investment in paper mills to improve quality and increase product range, and he said that the huge fluctuation in the value of the pound had aggravated the situation. This, remember, was just weeks after the then-chancellor Norman Lamont pulled the UK out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) as interest rates hit an eye watering 15 percent.

The ERM was a system created in 1979 to bring stability and reduce variability to currencies within the European Community, ahead of the eventual union and introduction of the Euro. And it was not just paper that was seeing inflation, the cost of plates and ink were also on the rise, as Anthony Savvas reported. Kodak announced the increases would be between five and 10 percent with the devaluation of the pound getting the blame. Similar increases were also reported to take place from Agfa and Du Pont-Howson, with inflation blamed for the hikes planned in the New Year. The New Year, that is, of 1993. It could easily have been 2018.



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