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Scottish Print Review

By The Drum | Administrator

April 6, 2007 | 6 min read

The print industry in Scotland has been making the news headlines over the last year – but, unfortunately, usually for the wrong reasons. Recent months have seen a number of industry stalwarts feel the full brunt of changing market conditions, and those that have been unable to react have now gone. Big names in Scottish print have disappeared - Nimmos and Pillans and Waddies to name a couple, with Inglis Allen being placed into liquidation recently.

However, it’s not been all bad news. The demise of some has been to the benefit of other print businesses in Scotland. Many designers have commented on the investment that Summerhall Press has continued to make as it attempts to keep at the forefront of the marketplace, and MD George Pryde is quick to admit that, without the downfall of a number of major players, Summerhall’s growth and investment would have been unfathomable.

To help identify such printers in Scotland that have remained at the top of their game, investing in new technology and staff, to continue to provide a high level of service and innovation, The Drum polled the Scottish design industry to discover which print firms they believe have come out shining following this difficult period.

As such, The Drum polled over 50 of Scotland’s leading design agencies. An email questionnaire was sent out to the design agencies asking them to tell us what print firms they most often utilised. This information was then split into three areas: Innovation, Value for Money and Service, with the design agencies ranking the print firms they rated highest in each of these areas.

This information was then collated to form a series of three polls. With almost thirty different printers being used by the responding design agencies, the top ten print firms for Innovation, Value for Money and Service were identified. However, with the results in each of the three categories extremely close, with each individual printer being identified with its strong points and specialities, The Drum used the information to compile a poll of the top ten recommended printers in each of the categories, listing them in alphabetical order.

There were some interesting trends worth identifying, however. Summerhall Press was rated particularly highly by the polled agencies, with both Beith and J Thomson Colour performing well too - this trend saw Summerhall Press topping three of the four polls - only missing the top spot for “Value for Money.”

The Drum also asked the design agencies questions on what they look for from their print service, including how far they go to source their print. A number of design agencies look to England and Wales to buy their print. Although it is encouraging to see that a majority of the agencies surveyed did not look beyond Hadrian’s Wall for their print services. However, in some cases, a few of the design teams look to mainland Europe – Poland, Spain and Italy especially – although such moves tend to be client led. Still, one company even went as far a field as the Far East to source a job.

As the results over page show, the print industry is taking stock. Lessons are being learnt and there is, again, a realistic glimmer of hope in the market.

Designers comments on print industry...

Ian McIlroy –

“I look for quality and attention to detail; communication; added value; and suggestions and advice regarding my requirements. These are difficult times for the print industry, but investment still has to be made.”

999 –

“We like to work with printers who can work with us, give good advice, technical expertise and show an understanding of what we are trying to achieve. Then, costs and reliability come as a secondary requirement. Building strong relationships, a ‘can do’ attitude and delivering great service is the route to securing work with design customers.”

Hyphen Design –

“There is a wealth of great printers across Scotland, so unless the client specifically requests it, there is no reason for Scottish companies to place print outside Scotland. The printers that do well seem to be the ones who offer a USP, but very rarely does price actually work as a USP with us. If a printer is too cheap then print buyers like me will question the quality, and lets face it, someone is always willing to undercut!”

Elmwood –

“There seems to be a limited choice of good printers that can provide the level of service and reliability we require. The printers who constantly invest in new technology should be supported by the design community in Scotland.”

Hookson –

“Client servicing is not as good as it should be, attention to detail within the larger print companies is sometimes lacking. Also, when our clients print aboard there’s no way we can complete on price. The one main factor that I look for when placing print is customer service.”

Tayburn –

“It’s sad that a number of good Scottish printers have disappeared over the last few years on the other hand it is encouraging that Summerhall have made investments in staff and plant – this should hold them in good stead for the future. In terms of handling Annual Reports, London based printers still have an edge over their Scottish counterparts in terms of service, quality and experience.”

Three Brand Design –

“The Scottish print industry is in a Catch 22 situation where designers seek innovation and creativity yet are pressured into bringing costs down.”

Redpath –

“So many Scottish printers are going to the wall trying to cut prices instead of concentrating on providing a good service. Repeat customers often suffer in the drive to win new business. Winning a new client is the easy part, retaining their business and getting repeat jobs is where reps should concentrate their efforts.”

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