Welcome to the Close Brothers Asset Finance update of the print industry. In this document we highlight a wide range of issues relevant to SMEs in this industry.
The results are based on the Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly survey of close to 1,000 SMEs across the UK conducted by specialist independent researcher, Lightspeed, on Close Brothers’ behalf.
Where relevant, comparisons are made with national sentiment.
Print SME business owners’ economic outlook is less positive when compared to other industries surveyed, trending below the rest of the UK. Just over a quarter of those polled are confident the economy will grow (UK: 36%) with a further 23% feeling that while it will take longer, better times are ahead (UK: 27%).
Four in 10 are concerned that the economy could decline and haven’t experienced any true economic growth.
Looking ahead, 53% of print firms expect their performance to remain static, while 33% are hoping to expand their operations in 2019; 14% believe their business will either contract or shut down.
While the impact of mental health continues to be felt across the SME community, with 47% (UK: 40%) of print firms in the UK reporting that at least one of their employees has taken time off work because of it, attitudes are changing for the better. Only 13% of SMEs in the industry are of the view that feelings towards those suffering from mental ill health are becoming worse, against 23% who say it’s changing for the better; the remaining 47% haven’t noticed a change in attitude.
In addition, 33% (UK: 38%) of SMEs have noted an increase in reporting of mental health issues over the last three years while 40% of print firms polled have taken steps to actively raise awareness of mental health among employees.
Concerns and priorities
‘Late payments’ and the ‘lack of skilled staff’ are the most pressing concerns for print firms, followed by ‘maintaining cash flow’. In an industry where margin pressure is particularly high, any events that impact cash flow – including late payments - can have a disproportionate impact on a business’s productivity and
‘Achieving growth’ and ‘paying down debts’ are the print industry’s main priority, followed by ‘business consolidation’ and ‘investing in staff’.
Financial advisers (23%) and online resources (20%) are the most popular sources for financial support and advice, ahead of both accountants and bank managers (17% each). These findings demonstrate the changing role of bank managers in the modern business environment, who are more remote from the funding decision-making process and consequently don’t have the type of relationship with business owners that they may have done in previous generations.
A quarter of firms polled are finding it a ‘major challenge’ to access the funding they need and more difficult than it was a year ago while a further 40% are saying that it hasn’t become any easier to get hold of finance and is as problematic as it’s ever been. The remaining third say it’s either become easier or they’ve ‘never had a problem accessing finance’.
Despite the challenges obtaining finance, a strong number (63%) of business owners said that they will be seeking investment funding in the coming 12 months.
Print firms are convinced about the importance of charity support and fundraising to employee morale, with a combined 56% feeling it creates a bond in the team and gives their workers something positive to focus on. The other 43% feel it either ‘makes no difference’ or is a ‘distraction’.
Half of print companies surveyed actively support a charity, which closely tracks the UK average of 53%. Some firms, however, feel they’re not ‘big enough’ to support a charity.
While 53% of firms feel that supporting a charity says something positive about a company's culture, a further 40% think people are suffering from ‘donation fatigue’.
Despite print SMEs overwhelmingly understanding the benefits of employing older workers - with their experience being particularly valued along with their ability to mentor more junior members of the workforce – 57% feel that the recruitment process discriminates against older workers.
And while 50% of firms are comfortable with being able to recruit the talent they need in the coming five years, 27% are predicting problems in the future and a further 23% say they’re already struggling.