Gemini Digital – News2018-09-11T09:50:08+00:00

GEMINI DIGITAL NEWS

‘We’ve got a very good business now’ – Print Week Interview with Steve Cropper

Recent years have been turbulent, but Steve Cropper has discovered a professionalism previously lacking in the business, and a corner has been turned

Words Darryl Danielli

Like many general commercial printers, Gemini Print Group has faced its fair share of challenges over the past decade. The fallout from the 2008 financial crisis, the collapse of Paperlinx, the Brexit vote, and diminishing margins have hit the entire industry. But when you throw into the mix being put into special measures by its bank in 2010 and the death of its founder shortly afterwards, then it’s probably fair to say that it hasn’t been the luckiest of businesses. So, it’s hardly surprising that the simple fact that the business is still here is probably group managing director Steve Cropper’s proudest achievement to date. However, after steadying the ship and leading an MBO two years ago at the circa-£18m business, which has a multi-unit main site in Shoreham-on- Sea, West Sussex along with a 30-staff production site in Bristol and sales offices in London and Newcastle, he’s set his sights firmly on growth and diversification. And with plans starting to bear fruit, it’s very likely that his proudest achievements are probably yet to come.

Darryl Danielli My usual opener is how did you get into print, so that seems a good place to start.

Steve Cropper I think this is my 32nd year. I started as a van driver.

With the business?
With the business.

And that was your very first job?
In print. I started when the company had about six employees, it was called Kraft Paper Products back then. And in a small company you get to do everything, one day you will be in the camera room for 10 hours shooting negatives and then stripping them, if I wasn’t doing that I was driving the van, if I wasn’t doing that I was working in finishing.

So, you were pretty much working across the business then?
Certainly, up until we moved over here, which was 25 years ago.

When did the business change its name to Gemini then?
Probably around four or five years after that.

Was it acquired?
No, it was just a name change really.

So, did you develop through the business via a production route rather than sales?
I was always in production, I suppose initially as an admin person really, but as I developed I moved into the print room and then became production director and then in mid 1990s, I think it was when I was 27, I was made a [company] director.

How big was the business then?
Probably £3m or £4m.

So, it had grown a fair amount then?
Well, I’ll give you a brief history: Gemini merged with a company called Blackburn Print [in 1990] and we moved to these premises, which were Blackburn’s [in Shoreham-by-Sea], so growth accelerated very quickly after that.

Who owned the business back then?
Nigel Holmes and Alan Blackburn. Blackburns was at the forefront of the old Scitex, so they would manipulate holiday images for companies and remove the skyscrapers or building sites from the brochure photos. We moved over when they had one press, but their main business was pre-pressand we came with more press than pre-press and we shared the same unit. As the years progressed and we grew we’ve taken on more units on the estate.

So you have quite a few other sites?
Well, we have eight units on this site, but we only have one other manufacturing facility and that’s in Bristol.

Was that an acquisition?
With the Blackburn merger, there was a company – Parkway I think it was at the time, in Bristol – and they were owned by [Alan] Blackburn’s business partner [Scottish entrepreneur and former Motherwell FC owner] John Boyle. After Gemini and Blackburn Print merged, probably six months later Alan wanted to step out. John was his partner at Parkway, but he admitted he knew nothing about print, he was an investor, so he offered it to Nigel and that was what became Gemini West. But it’s now branded simply as Gemini Print as we’re all one company now. To be honest, the ancient history of the business is probably less important that the past seven or eight years.

Did something big happen?
You could say that: the financial crisis. In 2010, RBS like all banks at the time, were looking at their IF [invoice financing] lines and we had £750,000 available to draw down and they put us into like a high intensity…

…like special measures?
Exactly. They effectively withdraw funding from us over the Christmas period, literally on the final day before we broke up. So, Nigel and me had to come in to make sure wages were being covered. Looking back now though, I think part of the reason RBS made that decision was because Nigel was a very autocratic owner. He was old school and [before the financial crisis] could pick up the telephone and secure £2m of creditjust like that. So, when he had, what he thought, were snotty-nosed little bankers coming along telling him that they wanted to see his forecasts and budgets, he felt he didn’t need to do that. So, in the months before they pulled, there had clearly been some bad interactions between Nigel andRecent years have been turbulent, but Cropper has discovered a professionalism previously lacking in the business, and a corner has been turned Words Darryl Danielli the bank – to the point where RBS withdrew.

But I guess it probably wasn’t that uncommon, entrepreneurial business owners of his generation were probably used to relationship banking, but that changed after the crisis?
True. And he was always like that, bless him, he could just pick up the phone run through some numbers from the back of a fag packet and didn’t really need to do anything else to get what he wanted. He was the same when it came to buying companies. He would buy a company and then keep the same people running it, and then after two or three months he would send me in to find out what was wrong and why it wasn’t making any money. We bought one company in Hastings, I realised what was wrong in 48 hours and came back, wrote my report up highlighting what we need to change and he then got the guy in and said, ‘Steve’s written this about you, what do you think’. Thanks Nigel. But that was kind of his style.

Different to yours then?[Laughs] But it taught that me that you need to be transparent in business. If the bank or a supplier wants information, they want it for a reason, they’re under pressure their end. So, it’s only right that you give them the information that gives them the confidence to lend or offer credit. But back to then though, Nigel did have the foresight to talk to other bankers and had another one up hissleeve. So when RBS pulled funding and appointed Grant Thornton [to advise] in January [2011], which meant every cheque had to go through them, while it was a fraught few weeks, we knew we could get through it. It seemed bizarre, though, as we [technically] had £750,00 available to us with the bank through the invoices we could draw against. Trust me, I would love to have that kind of availability in the run-up to Christmas these days [laughs].

It must have been a stressful time?
Well, come late February Nigel had a heart attack, a large one, and he was in hospital from then until he passed away in July. That must have been awful. Was he majority shareholder at the time? He owned 51%, with John Boyle having 49%. John had never really been involved with the company though – he would probably fly down once a year, take Nigel out to lunch, talk about how well business was doing and that was it.

Here’s your dividend, thank you.
I guess. He was a very successful entrepreneur with lots of investments.

Was he more an investor than someone running businesses then?
No, he ran businesses too. His main thing was building Direct Holidays and selling it to Airtours [in the late 1990s] for around £78m. John, to be fair to him, was incredibly supportive. In the January, he cancelled his holiday and helped Nigel with the banks. In the period after Nigel’s heart attack, we undertook a review of the group’s businesses, because we needed that transparency.

And with Nigel in hospital, I suppose, with his management style a lot of the knowledge of the business was stuck in hospital too?
Before he had the heart attack I never really had the chance to have input or help manage the other businesses, it was always from afar, and he would then work with the other businesses and just say ‘Steve says you need to do this or that’ but I could never get directly involved.

So, you were the managing director of the main [Shoreham-on-Sea] site, but there were other people running the other sites – you just played the role of the bad guy, without ever getting close to the other businesses?
That’s a one way to put it. Anyway, we then started to look at the other businesses and what was going on. I spent a lot of time up at Heathfield, we had a plant up there called Quentin Press and it was losing money quite badly. We stemmed the losses, and after six months it was going the right way but it was still a drain on the top company [Gemini], so we made the difficult decision to close it in October 2011.

Was the complicated structure of the business back then masking the unprofitable parts because you didn’t have the visibility?
Yes. Let’s just say that money coming up from the top company was funding the unprofitable parts.

And I suppose that’s not that uncommon when a company has an entrepreneurial owner who controls everything and no-one else has the group-wide visibility?
Exactly. And that was why we made the collective decision that I would spend my time across all of the businesses and do a review and see where we ended up.

So, what happened after Nigel passed away? Did John buy the remaining stake in the business?
He did eventually, between Nigel and John there was a ‘put and call’ scenario. So, it wasn’t easy. John was also in the mind of why should he but this, as it was going through a period of uncertainty. I also had to go to court to get a ad colligenda bona that allowed me to become the secretary of the company and then approach John to see if he wanted to buy the company. He said yes, so I had to get an independent valuation and then distribute the funds to Nigel’s estate. Although it wasn’t quite as easy as that probably makes it sound. It took around nine months.

It still doesn’t sound easy.
And in all that time suppliers, credit insurers everyone needed to know what was happening with the company, so we had to reassure them and beg, borrow, steal favours to keep the business going.

And all that just after coming out of special measures with the bank?
That wasn’t too bad as we had managed to keep that within the business and manage it – to ensure everyone got paid.

It must have been an incredibly tough year though?
We’ve probably had tougher [laughs].

Really? Wow!
It was quite an experience though. And then after that I had to put Quentin Press into liquidation, which was just awful. It was something I had never done before and was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and something I don’t ever want to have to do again. Telling the staff that we had to close the company was just awful.

It does sound like the year from hell.
You could say that. And then in around April 2012 we completed the sale to John. John was an incredibly patient investor though and he knew that we needed investment, so he started to invest in finishing equipment in 2012/2013 and then we put in two [Heidelberg Speedmaster] XLs in 2014.

How big was the company then in around 2010/11?
At its height, it was over £20m. But with one company closing and unravelling the rest, it ended up around £14m. In our last accounts, it was back up to £16m and our run rate this year is £18m.

But presumably more profitable now than when you were at your peak?
That’s hard, because it was a different time and margins have been eroded across the industry.

It certainly sounds more sustainable.
Yes. Absolutely. We’ve also invested £8m over the past five years, prior to that most investment was simply to support the companies, when really we should have been consolidating the business. But Nigel had this vision for satellite companies all over the place. Now, they [the investments] are about growing the business, setting a strategic direction. Which is presumably when the good news starts? Well, when did Paperlinx go? 2015. Well, Paperlinx’s largest hub was just up the road [on the same trading estate as Gemini]. So, we could go up at any time of day or night to collect paper, because we had no storage space at the time – they were our warehouse. So, probably 90% of our paper was bought from up the road. So, that April, when Paperlinx went bust, that was hard – we had to find £400,000 of paper a month and we had no credit lines with the other merchants as we hardly used them. But the paper industry came to the fore, people like Antalis and Denmaur really stepped up to help us – but we kept hitting our credit limits because they couldn’t keep up with our usage. At one point I think we were having to pay on 15 days. So that was tough, probably for a year. Stora was really good too and we were buying significant tonnage from them, but we had nowhere to store it at the time – so we would have paper outside under tarpaulins in the middle of winter.

Not exactly ideal then?
It was painful for about year, until some new units were built on the estate and we took one for our paper store. Now we probably have £300,000 of paper onsite at any one time. Looking back there were clearly signs that Paperlinx was in trouble, but I never really knew what credit insurance was before then, never needed to – we never hit a limit. But after Paperlinx I became very aware, and I realised that we needed to be even more accountable.

It goes back to what you said about transparency?
Yes. We had always had a ‘fit for purpose’ financial controller rather than a financial director when Nigel ran the business and one of things we agreed as a board was that we needed a financial director, someone to run the business by numbers. End of. So, we recruited Owen [Jones] in October 2011. His first job was to help me liquidate Quentins. So, we now run the place by numbers, absolutely everything is measured and we have total transparency across the business and Owen has been instrumental in that.

I suppose you had to put all those processes in place after Nigel died?
Absolutely everything. Before that [monthly] management reports were only published after three or four months, and even then Nigel would ask why did I need them.

So, even though you were managing director you didn’t have any access under Nigel?
Not really, I never saw audited accounts up to that point. I was a young director of the company – ‘fit for purpose’ if you like, because he needed someone to sign things off. So, I would be given things to sign, and when I asked what they were, I was just told ‘don’t worry about it, just sign’. It wasn’t until the unfortunate death of Nigel, that we had the auditors come in and they showed me a list of things that were wrong with the accounts. They showed me a list of letters that had been sent to me over the previous six years, and I had never seen any of them. Anyway, that’s all in the past and just another
thing we had to deal with at the time.

A bit worrying though?
And, in some respects, as difficult as all those things were at the time, they kick started the programme of improving the business and making
sure it was well run and much more transparent. It meant that we could open our doors to anyone, institutions, suppliers, who needed to know the financial side of things. And overthe past five or so years, opening up to them, speaking to them, letting them into Gemini and working with them as a partner, not just a supplier or lender, has got us though the tough times over the years. Like Brexit.

Hang on, have there been any goodtimes?[Laughs] I’ll get to those, it’s not all doom and gloom!

Thank god.
The good thing is that we got through all of what’s happened. Then next was Brexit. The first three months of 2016 things were looking really good, and me and Owen thought this might be our first good year with no drama. Then the Brexit vote came along, didn’t really care either way, but I just wanted stability…

…understandably after the previous few years.
So, I wanted us to stay in. Prior to the vote, we had a run rate of £75,000 a day across the group. Literally the day after the vote it was £15,000 and that was the pattern for weeks. So, we had to make a decision at that time buy turnover, almost at any cost, just to keep the IF lines turning and ensure we were in business.

Presumably, that was a short-term fix though?
Of course, we put a plan together and flew up to Scotland to see John and present it to him – essentially what we needed to do with the business, where we were going to go and the last fundamental point was asking John what was he going to do – because we needed more investment. I had the bit between my teeth. But during the presentation, he gave me and Chris Pennison…

Who’s Chris?
Chris came into to do a review of the business around three years ago. He has a manufacturing background and he’s one of John’s advisers. He had been working with us for around 18 months [at the time]. John is a really nice, pleasant, enthusiastic guy, but during the presentation he was tearing strips out of Chris and myself and I just couldn’t figure out what was going on. At the end of it he said that we had given him all the answers he needed and he told us that he was planning to retire a year later and we needed to organise an MBO or he was going to sell the business. He then told us to go into next room, come up with a figure and he wanted the number sorted before we went out for lunch.

You’re joking?
I was shell shocked. I flew up that morning to sort out some new investment and flew home that evening having just orchestrated an MBO. Without actually knowing how I would. This was in November 2016.

You kept that quiet?
We wanted to really. John was sitting there – our multimillionaire guardian angel – and that had really helped us get though some of the tough times. So, if it got around that he was coming out of the business, what would people think? So, we kept it low key. Don’t get me wrong, all the key partners were kept fully informed.

Learning the lessons from the past.
Absolutely. John was really good too, once we agreed the money he then gave us a year’s grace to start paying it back in monthly instalments so that we didn’t overburden the business. I couldn’t be more grateful to him for the way he handled that, it also enabled me to come back here and speak to all the directors and ask them if they wanted to be part of it.

Who else was in the MBO team?
Owen, Rob [Page, the managing director of the Bristol business], Matt [Cooper production director], Nick [Gwynne, sales director], Chris [Pennison, chairman] and Andrew[Lapping, non-executive director. Since then, Julie Beard [digital director] has become a board member and shareholder and Mark Tulley, sales director is also on the board.

I’m still trying to get my head around the fact you only had a few hours to agree a price for the business?
I think we went back two or three times that day, but we agreed.

And he’s not involved anymore?
No, but he’s still interested and has been a great mentor. He came down around two months ago and wanted to see the new press, he’s still enthused by what we’re doing. And I’ll never forget that if he hadn’t stepped in [in 2011] then 140 people would have lost their jobs. Not just then to be fair, there was a period when it felt like we would get through one challenge and then ‘bang’ something else would come along.

You must have learned a hell of lot in that period though?
Oh yes.

And the tough times are all behindyou now, plain sailing, post MBO?
In comparison. We had a new press come in last year, brilliant press [10-colour Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 105], we got it secondhand from Exel, they did really well. But it was due in July/August as we identified that as the best time. But it didn’t come in until September/October, our busiest period, the other press was being decommissioned and then over October/November we had to reverse all the finishing equipment we had moved to make room. Matt and myself are pretty good at planning, but it knocked us both for six – it didn’t quite get to the point where I had to cancel my wedding, but I nearly had to cancel my honeymoon.

What was the delay?
It was from a failed business in Italy, but the insolvency process there is very complex so it just took a lot longer than any of us planned. But we got through it. January and February were a little quiet, but since March though, we just keep breaking records, and I’m really looking forward to this month because September is always a busy month anyway, so if we keep the trend up it should be really good. And we’re doing lots of really positive things.

When do you catch a breath though?
We took on two reps plus six staff at Bristol after Kingsdown went down, and that’s been very good for us. People might have questioned years ago why we kept Bristol going, it was losing anything between £75,000 and £100,000 a year, but it was feeding the top company £750,000 in sales, so the cost of a rep would be that value. And, to be honest, after having to close Quentins down, I was damn sure I was going to make Bristol work. There are some really good people there, and since Rob [Page, managing director] joined the business has dramatically changed. I think the Kingsdown people joining was the last piece of their puzzle. So, it’s a double win, not only is the site now profitable, but its generating even more sales for the top company [the Shoreham-on-Sea site] too.

So, the business has certainly turned the corner then?
Absolutely. One of the other positives is that we have also branched out into other areas. Two things have shocked me: the success of digital in Bristol and the growth of the promotional merchandise business. Managed document solutions is an opportunity for us too, where we look at our clients, ask what they’re doing with this, how are they doing that and identifying areas where we can help them – basically trying to understand their businesses better so that we can look at new areas where we might be able to help them.

That’s interesting, because I guess what you’re talking about is the lead supplier model – which a lot of the big groups are adopting?
It’s about understanding our clients better, finding out what their challenges are and seeing if we can help them with them, because it might be easy for us, but very hard for them.

So, what’s next?
Growth and investment. We’re reviewing our MIS, looking at webto-print. I want to plug our skills gap too, and finding people can be difficult here, so the alternative is investing in new technology that enables the people we have to do more. Large-format is another area I’m looking at dipping our toe in. I’ve got a shopping list spec’d, I know what I want to do. But on the flip side I would also look at a company that could benefit from investment, so look for a business with the existing skills that needs a bit of love and would benefit from us giving them quite a bit of turnover.

Buying another company?
Possibly. I’ve started to look down that route. We’ve got a very good business here now. I wouldn’t say the market has got any easier, but looking on what’s going on here I’m pretty confident, we’re in a strong position now, rather than flying by the seat of our pants like we had been for the past six or seven years.

So, you’ve been through a period of turbulence, probably more than most, learned a lot and you’ve now got the solid foundations from which to build on?
I would say an important part of that is that over the past three or four years I’ve also surrounded myself with good people in key areas. People that challenge me and the business, and that’s important to me. I want to be tested. We’re more professional now than we have ever been.

You mentioned earlier that you you’ve learned a lot, is there anything you would have done differently?
Other than wipe out the last seven years you mean?

To be fair that wasn’t of your making though.
I probably would have got more involved with sales earlier. Coming from a production background I always saw sales from afar. But a couple of years ago I moved to sit in the middle of the sales team for around 18 months, just to give me a better understanding and break down the ‘them and us’ culture in the business. Now everyone sits together and works together. Truth be told though, looking back at everything I probably don’t know what I did right and what I did wrong, but we’re still here. We’ve had some hard paper rounds in our time, but we’re still here. John, and Nigel, to be fair, taught me that we are the custodians of 160 people’s lives – and if we fail, it hurts a lot of people. I don’t want to fail.

But you’ve come out the other side now, the business is growing.
Looking at the positives you’re absolutely right, we’re in a good place now. But our auditors think we should be a case study on all the things that can go wrong. But we’re still here and I plan for us to be here for another 30-40 years.

Last question then: what advice would you give you younger self if you could go back in time?
Believe in myself. After everything we’ve been through, I certainly do now.

By |September 21st, 2018|Categories: Print|0 Comments

Paper Prices Rising In October

The following information is an excerpt from a feature published in Print Week magazine on the 6th September 2018.


More paper price rises are on the way next month with merchants issuing letters outlining increases of up to 8% after receiving notification from the mills of the need to put prices up.

This is the fourth time this year that price rises have been announced, with rising production costs – in particular the soaring price of pulp – cited as the driving force.

Premier Paper Group, Denmaur Paper Media and Elliott Baxter have all written to their customers this week flagging up price rises that will take effect from Monday 8 October. The increases cited were between 4-7% and 5-8%.

“We do very much share the frustrations of our customers with the current cycle of paper price increases, but the reality is that this is not just a UK increase but there is upward pressure on paper prices right across Europe,” said Premier Paper Group marketing director David Jones.

“The main driver being that, globally, pulp prices continue to rise to unprecedented levels due to demand and availability.”

Products affected include all wood free coated and uncoated grades in reels, sheets and cut sizes, as well as office papers and a number of other board and speciality products.

“This is a big jump since last year, and my customers are asking us why the price is so much more,” said one lithographic printer.

“We’ve had three rounds of 5-8%, and that’s quite a chunk. Although we update our MIS system straightaway, it’s difficult when we’re producing periodicals for some customers and have agreed on a price for the year.”

One web offset printer told PrintWeek that his company had been notified of 7-8% increases in woodfree grades in October, with all other grades likely to follow in January.

“Our customers are changing the specification, frequency, and quantities of their titles as a result,” he said.

Earlier this year supplies of some paper grades were squeezed due to a “perfect storm” of global events, and non-integrated mills have struggled in the face of the pulp increases, with three European papermakers going bust this year.

Demand for pulp has ballooned in more profitable business areas such as hygiene and packaging products, while at the same time consumption of graphical papers has declined.

A paper merchanting expert said that since November 2016 the price of NBSK pulp had increased from $810/tonne (£627/tonne) to $1,230 tonne at present.

“I’ve counted nine paper price rises in the past 27 months. The first increases were Brexit and currency-related, but since then it’s been the price of pulp,” he said.

“Pulp has gone up by around £300 a tonne, while the paper has gone up by £180 a tonne in that time. The suppliers are struggling.”

Working with our paper suppliers, Gemini Print will be publishing a fact sheet for customers explaining the global forces and market dynamics that are impacting prices.

If you have any questions, please contact Suzanne Heaven, Marketing Director at marketing@gemini-print.co.uk or call 01273 464 884 

By |September 10th, 2018|Categories: Print|0 Comments

Data Marketing Executive/Graduate

Although some debate that ‘content is king’ nobody disputes that the power behind a successful strategy is data. Working with the marketing director, you will be at the centre of driving a new standard of data led business development and brand marketing campaigns for our range of products and services across the UK.

The role is at the head office of the Gemini Print group in Shoreham by Sea.  Gemini Print has been providing top quality printing services for more than 40 years. The team of +160 people work together to provide high standard commercial printing (litho, digital and large format), promotional products, branded merchandise, and managed document solutions plus innovative print and online strategies.

For the right applicant, there could be a flexible approach re hours of work to enable, e.g. masters studies or family commitments

Role:

  • Enhance prospect and client relationships through regular data contact programmes
  • Gain effective lead generation (new and repeat) from all data sources
  • Monitoring online lead generation to assess changes and actions required
  • Analysing and updating databases to ensure accuracy, correctly targeted customer contact and timely relevant contact
  • The creation, implementation and assessment of full e-marketing and mailing campaigns using Dotmailer to meet agreed KPI
  • Ensure the website organic reach is running to maximum potential minimising bounce rates and maximising lead generation
  • Protect online brand position from competitor activity
  • The management of data led market research and surveys to assess customer service and satisfaction levels
  • Reports and analysis to demonstrate effective ROI from data work
  • Monitor opportunities, trends and new practices to propose shifts and developments to Gemini Print marketing activity

Skills:

  • Relevant business or marketing degree educated
  • Computer proficiency
  • Data analytics
  • Google skills
  • Database marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Report writing
  • Excel
  • CRM knowledge
  • GDPR awareness

Attributes:-

  • Detail accuracy/focused
  • Passionate about project achievement and success
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Hard working/high performer

Please apply in writing to Suzanne Heaven marketing@gemini-print.co.uk considering all points above. Please provide comment re your experience and expertise in addition to a standard CV.

Applications will close 20th September 2018.  The recruitment process will include:-

  1. Brief telephone interview with the marketing director
  2. Face to face interview with up to two directors
  3. Final selection interview of final shortlisted candidates
By |August 29th, 2018|Categories: Print|0 Comments

For Goodness Sake!

Why the power of print and paper is a positive approach

One of the customer service team based at the Gemini Print Bristol office told us “Talking to a friend recently about plastic poisoning helped me understand more about how important it is that we provide so many eco solutions for our customers. To think – we now have so many options that include organic branded merchandise and promotional products, biodegradable hi gloss digital printing, litho printing inks with a vegan certificate to high quality effectively managed paper sources with a total chain of custody to name but a few!”.

Long before it was deemed fashionable to ensure your firm was eco-active the Gemini Print Group teams were reviewing every stage of their operation to achieve and succeed with effective eco-certification and accreditation.  The south-east team based at the Shoreham by Sea HQ in addition to the Bristol, London and North East based colleagues are proud of the standards Group Managing Director Steve Cropper ensures everyone consistently strives to develop and enhance the options for customers.

We were impressed and inspired with the writings of David Gamage, Managing Director at Earth Island Publishing Ltd based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.  He published the following feature on Linked In on August 9th 2018.

At last everybody is talking. Thankfully the world is waking up to the environmental debate. Starting with plastics in the ocean we hope this is going to spread to be a fuller, more comprehensive and in-depth conversation about the environment and sustainability, which will at last see people take look at this issue with the seriousness it deserves.

Perhaps now, more than ever, the graphic arts industry, have the greatest opportunity to put across our environmental ethos and show how making a simple change to paper-based communications, paper-based packaging, and paper-based alternatives, can help the environment, by not only lessening the consumption of unsustainable resources, but also through the positive effects of planting and growing more and more trees, using a product that is quickly and easily recycled and reused, and working with producer companies that put the environment and sustainability firmly in the centre of their businesses.

A heartfelt ‘thank you’ Sir David! Since the wonderful Blue Planet, with our national hero David Attenborough, highlighted the huge problem of plastics in the seas – and the terrible environmental impacts that this is having – the whole world is taking notice of this problem. Thank you, Mr Attenborough.

Of course, this is something that all Earth Island’s magazines – Print Solutions, Packaging Solutions, and of course Green Solutions – have been writing about for some years. Yet, what is needed is a public and respected figure such as David Attenborough to connect with the general public and all of a sudden it is big news – and we really couldn’t be happier!

It is estimated that 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s. Research indicates that without urgent action to cut demand this is likely to be 34 billion tonnes by 2050. By which time, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish! That is not just a throwaway statistic. That is absolutely earth shattering – in more ways than one!

The ‘cut plastics’ message has been bolstered by the government’s own 25 Year Environment Plan, where ‘avoidable plastic waste will be eliminated by the end of 2042’. Yet, 2042 is a long way off, and by then, if we do nothing now, the earth will have been impacted so badly that we will have gone past the point of return. We need to act now – in 2018 – not in 2042. We need to act today. We need to act fast. And, we all need to take responsibility for our actions at home, at work and at play.

Keith Taylor is Green MEP for the South East and a member of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee. In response to the government’s announcement, he said: ‘Theresa May rightly identified the scourge of plastic pollution as one of the most urgent problems facing Britain and the planet. Sadly, however, the announcement of the 25 Year Environ-mental Plan provided scant detail of any policies the Government hopes to implement to actually tackle the issue. The Prime Minister also completely failed to acknowledge that to have any hope of winning the fight against a plastic pollution problem that has no respect for borders, it is essential Britain works closely and collaboratively with its neighbours.’

The government has already extended the 5p plastic carrier bag charge to all retailers in England. To date, we have used nine billion fewer plastic bags as a direct consequence of introducing the charge to inject new funding into plastics innovation through a bid into the government’s £7 billion research and development pot. This is great, but why it does not simply outlaw plastic bags completely and allow the use of sustainable and biodegradable paper-based bags is beyond me – but that is a rant for another day!

And, why is this research money going only to ‘plastics’ innovation? What about some government funding for more sustainable alternatives such as paper or paperboard? Our papermaking industry in the UK has been in decline for decades – not due to lack of knowledge and skills, but mostly due to past governments turning a blind eye to the problems of running a competitive industry in a European market. Yet, the few mills that we now have left are at the pinnacle of creative innovation – and all are hugely successful in their environmental work, pioneering and leading the world on processes such as one use coffee cup recycling.

But, to come back to the oceans. In the UK alone, during its recent Great British Beach Clean Up, the Marine Conservation Society found 718 pieces of litter for every 100 metre stretch of beach surveyed, and of this rubbish from food and drink made up at least one fifth. Prime minister Theresa May said, ‘This truly is one of the great environmental scourges of our time. We must reduce the demand for plastic, reduce the number of plastics in circulation and improve our recycling rates. To tackle it we will take action at every stage of the production and consumption of plastic.’

So, a call to arms for all of us? Well, we have heard from many environmental organisations about the problem. We have seen many schemes – from school children cleaning up beaches to free water refill stations and the ‘ditch plastic straws’ campaign – calling for a reduction in plastics. Many of these fine people have been kind enough to mention that there is an alternative to plastics – paper based products, which are biodegradable, sustainable and more eco-friendly.

Committing – Research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has found that the equivalent of one dumper truck’s worth of plastic enters the oceans every minute, and by 2050 it forecasts there could be more plastic (by weight) in the ocean than fish. Today, only 14% of plastic packaging gets collected for recycling.

Big brands are already committing to reduce their plastics. This is a massive opportunity for packaging producers and designers who can offer more sustainable options like paper.

Unilever, for instance, has called for the consumer goods industry to step up its efforts to tackle the mounting challenge of ocean plastic waste and create a circular economy for plastics.

One year after Unilever made its commitment to ensure 100% of its plastic packaging was fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, CEO Paul Polman welcomed news that ten other companies have made similar pledges. These include big names such as Amcor, evian, L’Oréal, Mars, Marks & Spencer, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, and Walmart. Other brands such as McDonald’s Waitrose, Tetra Pak and Iceland have also made commitments to reduce, or completely eliminate plastics from their supply chains.

Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman said, ‘Addressing the issue of ocean plastic is a shared responsibility – all stakeholders in the value chain must work together in partnership to find effective solutions. However, there is no doubt that the response from the consumer goods industry will be amongst the most critical in determining the speed at which positive change takes place. We are at a critical juncture.’

Unilever has made good progress on reducing its waste footprint. Since 2010, the waste associated with the disposal of its products has decreased by 28% and the weight of its packaging has reduced by 15%. The company also stopped sending non hazardous waste to landfill from its manufacturing sites in 2015. But Unilever is just one brand owner who will have to replace its plastics with alternatives. It is estimated that the companies who have signed up to date influence more than six million metric tonnes of plastic packaging each year.

Nearer to home, the BBC is also introducing a three step plan to remove single use plastic from its operations by 2020. Plastic cups and cutlery will be scrapped by the end of 2018, ending the use of around two million plastic cups used by visitors and staff across the BBC’s sites a year. Several sites have already begun to remove plastic cups from kitchens and replace with glasses wherever possible. This will be rolled out to all BBC offices. Plastic containers will be removed from canteens by 2019 starting with a pilot in Salford, where the company is trialling a coffee cup recycling scheme.

The BBC aims to be completely free of single use plastic across by 2020. Discus-sions will take place over the coming months with current suppliers and services to assess when further changes can be introduced, cutting the amount of single use plastic in other parts of its operations such as coffee cups, packaging of products it buys and catering on location. The company also states that any new contracts which come up for tender will also include the requirement to cut single use plastic.

Following on from Blue Planet II, BBC One has commissioned a 90 minute special with science and wildlife presenter Liz Bonnin setting out to reveal the full scale of the world’s plastic problem and explore ways in which science can offer a solution. Tony Hall, BBC director general, said: ‘Like millions of people watching Blue Planet II, I was shocked to see the avoidable waste and harm created by single use plastic. We all need to do our bit to tackle this problem, and I want the BBC to lead the way. Scrapping throwaway plastic cups and cutlery is the first step, and with our plan, I hope we can have a BBC free of single use plastic altogether.’

Just don’t make them! If we all banned plastic bottles from the workplace, the UK would save 3.9 billion bottles from being produced by 2020. The saving would amount to 156,000 tonnes of plastic a year. These are the findings of office provider Desk.co.uk which is spear-heading a campaign to have all single-use plastic bottles outlawed by 2020.

Jonathan Ratcliffe, the spokesman for the company, commented: ‘Thirty per cent of all plastic drinking bottles are used in the workplace, that works out at a staggering 3.9 billion bottles a year in the UK being made for what purpose? What is wrong with using a glass and a tap for crying out loud!’ He continued, ‘You have people sitting at work drinking from single-use plastic bottles when a walk to the kitchen to refill a glass would help cut over 156,000 tonnes of plastic from being produced in the first place.’

According to RecycleNow statistics, Britons get through:

  • 480 plastic bottles a year per household.
  • 35 million plastic bottles per day nationally.
  • 13 billion plastic bottles a year nationally (2016).

According to BusinessWaste.co.uk, the biggest saving that can be made in terms of energy is not producing things in the first place, and like the smoking ban, UK lawmakers have to take enforce such a change.

It has been revealed that 44% of plastic bottles do not get recycled by households, the fears are that businesses throw even more than that away.
‘Recycling plastic is well and good, but if we didn’t make the things in the first place it just wouldn’t be an issue,’ said Jonathan. ‘There is a huge push by office providers up and down the country to reduce both waste and energy consumption and we need help. We need the government to step in.’

Recent years have seen a huge increase in the amount of offices using water fountains – but even these aren’t without their environmental impact. Plastic cups, the water fountains and the water bottles themselves are all plastic and cost resources to move around.

The Mayor of London has announced a plan to build a network of water fountains in London in a push to reduce our love of one use plastic bottles, whilst many shops such as Neal’s Yard, supermarkets, and malls are now switching on to the ‘refill station’ initiative, whereby a ‘tap’ is provided for shoppers to refill reusable water containers for free. ‘We are 100% behind Mayor Khan with his efforts to totally discourage bottles, however his plans simply do not go far enough for us. We would like to see a policy towards phasing them out altogether,’ added Jonathan.

Louise Green, head of sustainability at Neal’s Yard Remedies, said: ‘We already have sink stations with taps on the shop floor of many of our stores so it made sense to allow people to fill up when they drop by. We want to offer people a convenient way to stay hydrated so they don’t need to keep buying plastic bottles and contribute to the global issues around plastic waste.’

This issue will continue to be debated, but we really need to ensure that we do more than ‘talk’. Action is needed and it is needed now. Thankfully, there are alternatives – many of which come from our own industry. We really do need to shout about it more though, otherwise the world will continue to scratch its head and say, ‘what on earth will we do if we don’t have plastics’ and governments will continue to pump billions into plastics research.

We really do need to make this a cohesive, coherent and concerted effort to spread the love, and the truth, about paper based products further. Now is our time, and we would be foolish to miss this amazing opportunity.

Additionally, did you know…
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has awarded VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland for a packaging solution made of.
VTT is one of the five prize winners, between whom the foundation splits a one million dollar prize. The new material can extend the shelf life of food, while also reducing food waste and the worldwide microplastics problem.

As material, cellulose is safe, renewable, recyclable and compostable. VTT developed a compostable and lightweight packaging material by combining cellulose films with different, but complementary properties.

The plastic like packaging material is suitable for dry and greasy products, such as nuts, cereals, coffee, condiments and raisins. The greatest benefits can be reached when the material is used for packaging products with a long shelf life.

In terms of properties, the material is highly competitive or in many cases even better than the currently available biodegradable bio-plastics. With minor modifications, it can be produced with existing production machinery. Optimisation of cellulose layers produces excellent packaging properties.

The packaging can be produced by combining cellulose films with different properties. The flexible and transparent lightweight material protects the product from atmospheric gases and humidity. It also forms a barrier against the grease or mineral oil in the product. The package can be sealed by heating.

‘By optimising the layer structure, we can improve the technical properties and reduce the amount of materials used. If the package was manufactured of one cellulose based material only that would meet all the requirements for a good packaging material, the package would be very thick and heavy,’ said Ali Harlin, research professor at VTT. He estimates that the packaging material can be commercialised within three to five years.

On 15 August 2017, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation announced a prize aimed at seeking new materials to solve the global micro-plastics problem. The matter is urgent: it has been estimated that every year more than eight million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in oceans.

‘In a New Plastics Economy, plastics will never become waste or enter the ocean in the first place. To get there will require new levels of commitment and collaboration from industry, governments, designers and start ups. I hope these innovations will inspire even more progress, helping to build a system in which all plastic materials are reused, recycled or safely composted,’ said Dame Ellen MacArthur.

Also, did you know…
A new collaborative initiative will help turn the tide on the UK’s growing issue of plastic waste – if all of the plastic bottles that are not collected for recycling in the UK each year were placed end to end, they would go around the world 31 times.

The ambitious UK initiative will involve collaborative action and commitment by businesses, industry, governments, local authorities, NGOs, media and society at large, to re-define what is possible and create a plastic system that works – a circular economy where plastic is valued and never becomes waste.

The initial focus will be on plastic packaging and will aim to:

  • Eliminate unnecessary and problematic single use plastic packaging.
  • Make sure all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable.
  • Significantly increase the collection and recycling of plastic packaging.
  • Increase recycled content in plastic packaging to drive demand for recycled material.
  • Impassion and enable citizens to play their part in reducing plastic packaging waste and litter.

The holistic initiative is currently in development by sustainable production and consumption experts WRAP, and is a joint partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Marcus Gover, CEO at WRAP, said: ‘So far the solutions to plastic waste have been piecemeal. I am pleased to be leading this holistic initiative which will transform the UK’s plastics system. Working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we will bring together every ‘body, business and organisation’ involved in the lifecycle of plastics to make the move from a throw away culture to one where resources are used over and over again.’

Dame Ellen MacArthur said: ‘Creating a circular economy for plastics amounts to a huge opportunity for the economy as well as providing a longer term benefit for the environment. Achieving it will require close collaboration and significant commitment from industry, government, and society at large. We are delighted to work with WRAP to help unleash such collaboration here in the UK, as a first national implementation initiative of our global New Plastics Economy initiative.’

And, did you know…
A new technology could dramatically increase recycling rates, as people should be able to recycle plastics in their own homes, and new build houses should come with the technology ready installed. That is the view of a major British waste and recycling company which says the technology already exists to allow plastics to be either pelleted or turned into useful items.

BusinessWaste.co.uk says that while the technology isn’t suitable for every home, it is a major step toward making the UK a 100% recycling economy. ‘We are very much at the ‘early adopters’ stage with this concept,’ said BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, ‘but this has the potential to grow very big indeed.’
Most plastic recycling is done by big companies and involves collecting waste plastics from homes and industry to be shredded and processed. The new process has been developed to allow domestic plastic shredders, much like household kitchen waste disposals. Householders will be left with sorted pelleted plastic waste, which they can either sell back to companies, or use for their own purposes.

Mark foresees a future where householders can just toss unwanted plastics down a chute in their kitchen, and it is shredded and collected ‘behind the scenes’. The potential for the technology is enormous. Mark added, ‘It is literally shred and forget, and the plastic pellets are just taken away.’ But for those who want to take the entire concept to its logical conclusion, waste plastics can be shredded and converted into other plastic products in the home.

‘Plastic pellets are easily converted into the ‘ink’ for 3D printers, and from there, the sky’s the limit,’ said Mark. People already experimenting with everyday household plastic waste say they are turning it into plates, bowls, cups and other items.

With BusinessWaste.co.uk campaigning for a society which recycles its waste as much as possible, the idea of in-home plastic shredding and re-use can only be a good one. ‘We are heading toward a no waste society where everybody’s involved with recycling,’ said Mark. ‘Not everybody has bought into the concept, but there are enough on board who see a future that keeps industry costs down by constant recycling of materials.’

But worryingly, the scary truth is…

  • It is estimated that more than eight million tonnes of plastics are dumped in the oceans each year.
  • Worldwide, more than one million plastic bags are used every minute.
  • More than one million plastic bottles are sold per minute worldwide.
  • The production process to make a bottle of water, takes six times more water than that contained within the bottle.
  • It can take between 500 and 1000 years for plastics to degrade – if it ever does! That means that the majority of plastics ever produced, still exist on the earth or in the oceans.
  • Plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds ever year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals.
  • The plastic debris also gets into food – like shellfish – so you may well be ingesting it too.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is more than twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one. This is the largest of these so called ‘gyres’, but there are four others which are growing.
  • Plastics will outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050.
  • The cause of all this pollution and environmental degradation? Us!

It’s time to put this right and for the paper, print and packaging industry to make sure it’s creativity and sustainability is known by all.

WELL SAID DAVID! Let’s all work together to keep ensuring people understand the power of print and paper  – when you would like the Gemini Print team to help improve the eco standards of your printing, communications and promotional projects just contact marketing@gemini-print or call 01273 464884.

By |August 15th, 2018|Categories: Print|0 Comments

FACEBOOK Using The Power of Print

Gemini Print are celebrating that another major brand has realised the power of print on paper – recognising that print is the powerful and effective way to get an important message across.

Social media giant Facebook launched GROW.  While always extolling the virtues of digital they quietly launched the British based quarterly magazine aimed at wealthy businesspeople in the UK and Northern Europe– some call it a brochure, most call it a magazine.  The cover of GROW states a ‘quarterly magazine for business leaders’ although this contrasts with their head of business marketing who says GROW is a ‘business marketing programme’ so it’s a brochure.  However, roles such as editor in chief and creative director plus Facebook executive Nicola Mendelsohn referring to Grow as a magazine in her introduction makes denial rather futile!

There is so much evidence to support the facts that a good piece of print has the power to engage people at a very deep level providing a trusted experience.  Digital media is increasingly becoming a tarnished communication for advertisers. ‘Rules of Attraction’ reports that 81% of people purchased an item or visited a place after reading about it in a magazine.

Grow magazine reaches the target readership through targeted mailing, at Facebook business events and selected lounges at airports and train stations to reach executives ‘in transit’.  Facebook stated in a post about Grow “We know that business leaders have limited times for long reads at work.”

Writers commissioned by Facebook present articles and features ranging from hipster profiles such as Oscar Olsson of H&M (the millennial whisperer) to the growth of technology in the Middle East and the new role of Paris as a startup hub.

Grow Your Business. Grow Your Network. Grow Your Mind

 Some people may raise an eyebrow that FACEBOOK has used the same title as a cannabis horticulture magazine that is on FACEBOOK and publishes a magazine in the US, but maybe it expresses their supreme brand confidence not caring about such things!

Paul Crimmen, Development Director, Gemini Print says “We welcome the recognition by Facebook that the most powerful approach to maximise engagement and response is through an effective multi-media approach.  Gemini Print are recognised as innovators guiding clients to gain from the strength of integrating print with online and multi-media.”

Paul and his team invite you to contact Gemini Print on 01273 464884 or marketing@gemini-print.co.uk for a free demonstration.  He says “customers are always so pleasantly shocked at the low entry cost to this powerful way to increase ROI on any marketing or communications – I typically have to repeat the price as they expect so much more for the huge value they can gain.”

By |July 27th, 2018|Categories: Print|0 Comments

Welcome to Your New Job With Gemini Print!

With consistent investment and development of services for customers across all aspects of printing, promotional products, mailing and fulfilment plus exciting innovations the award-winning Gemini Print team is looking for new people to join.

Established in Sussex for more than forty years the Gemini Print headquarters in Shoreham by Sea is well situated to be reached by road, rail or the coastal bus service so applicants from across Sussex can apply.

Matt Cooper, Production Director Gemini Print said “we are very proud to be recognised as the leading commercial printer who attracts the best skills and experienced people to join as they spot the chance to develop genuine career opportunities with a company that ‘dares to be different’.  Printing is not a glamorous industry.  It is however full of variety and challenges at Gemini Print as every project for our customers demands a bespoke high-quality response.  It is this creativity and adherence to precisely what customers need that provides the satisfaction that skills and performance excellence are respected and valued”.

Many apprenticeships and trainee opportunities that lead to progression and stable career development for roles that do not demand previous experience have disappeared from lots of business sectors across Sussex.  Gemini Print is delighted to be recruiting school leavers plus new trainees.

Criteria for trainee roles includes common sense, good communication,  team spirit, good honest work ethic, demonstration of the capability to listen and learn, and the promise of great performance!

Roles to apply for include:  www.gemini-print.co.uk/about-us/vacancies/

  • Pre Press Operator
  • Print Room Assistant
  • Print Finishing Supervisors
  • Print Room Assistant
  • Trainee Finishing Operator
  • Print Sales Consultants
  • Print Finishing – Continental Night Shift
  • Trainee Finishing Machine Operators

The Gemini Print Group Managing Director and CEO Steve Cropper is a great example of Gemini Print career progression. More than 30 years ago he joined as a van delivery driver!  Throughout the company, there are lots of examples of multi-generation and family team members – all goes to show that it is a good business to join!

For any information email marketing@gemini-print.co.uk

By |June 22nd, 2018|Categories: Print|0 Comments

GEMINI DIGITAL NEWS

‘We’ve got a very good business now’ – Print Week Interview with Steve Cropper

Recent years have been turbulent, but Steve Cropper has discovered a professionalism previously lacking in the business, and a corner has been turned

Words Darryl Danielli

Like many general commercial printers, Gemini Print Group has faced its fair share of challenges over the past decade. The fallout from the 2008 financial crisis, the collapse of Paperlinx, the Brexit vote, and diminishing margins have hit the entire industry. But when you throw into the mix being put into special measures by its bank in 2010 and the death of its founder shortly afterwards, then it’s probably fair to say that it hasn’t been the luckiest of businesses. So, it’s hardly surprising that the simple fact that the business is still here is probably group managing director Steve Cropper’s proudest achievement to date. However, after steadying the ship and leading an MBO two years ago at the circa-£18m business, which has a multi-unit main site in Shoreham-on- Sea, West Sussex along with a 30-staff production site in Bristol and sales offices in London and Newcastle, he’s set his sights firmly on growth and diversification. And with plans starting to bear fruit, it’s very likely that his proudest achievements are probably yet to come.

Darryl Danielli My usual opener is how did you get into print, so that seems a good place to start.

Steve Cropper I think this is my 32nd year. I started as a van driver.

With the business?
With the business.

And that was your very first job?
In print. I started when the company had about six employees, it was called Kraft Paper Products back then. And in a small company you get to do everything, one day you will be in the camera room for 10 hours shooting negatives and then stripping them, if I wasn’t doing that I was driving the van, if I wasn’t doing that I was working in finishing.

So, you were pretty much working across the business then?
Certainly, up until we moved over here, which was 25 years ago.

When did the business change its name to Gemini then?
Probably around four or five years after that.

Was it acquired?
No, it was just a name change really.

So, did you develop through the business via a production route rather than sales?
I was always in production, I suppose initially as an admin person really, but as I developed I moved into the print room and then became production director and then in mid 1990s, I think it was when I was 27, I was made a [company] director.

How big was the business then?
Probably £3m or £4m.

So, it had grown a fair amount then?
Well, I’ll give you a brief history: Gemini merged with a company called Blackburn Print [in 1990] and we moved to these premises, which were Blackburn’s [in Shoreham-by-Sea], so growth accelerated very quickly after that.

Who owned the business back then?
Nigel Holmes and Alan Blackburn. Blackburns was at the forefront of the old Scitex, so they would manipulate holiday images for companies and remove the skyscrapers or building sites from the brochure photos. We moved over when they had one press, but their main business was pre-pressand we came with more press than pre-press and we shared the same unit. As the years progressed and we grew we’ve taken on more units on the estate.

So you have quite a few other sites?
Well, we have eight units on this site, but we only have one other manufacturing facility and that’s in Bristol.

Was that an acquisition?
With the Blackburn merger, there was a company – Parkway I think it was at the time, in Bristol – and they were owned by [Alan] Blackburn’s business partner [Scottish entrepreneur and former Motherwell FC owner] John Boyle. After Gemini and Blackburn Print merged, probably six months later Alan wanted to step out. John was his partner at Parkway, but he admitted he knew nothing about print, he was an investor, so he offered it to Nigel and that was what became Gemini West. But it’s now branded simply as Gemini Print as we’re all one company now. To be honest, the ancient history of the business is probably less important that the past seven or eight years.

Did something big happen?
You could say that: the financial crisis. In 2010, RBS like all banks at the time, were looking at their IF [invoice financing] lines and we had £750,000 available to draw down and they put us into like a high intensity…

…like special measures?
Exactly. They effectively withdraw funding from us over the Christmas period, literally on the final day before we broke up. So, Nigel and me had to come in to make sure wages were being covered. Looking back now though, I think part of the reason RBS made that decision was because Nigel was a very autocratic owner. He was old school and [before the financial crisis] could pick up the telephone and secure £2m of creditjust like that. So, when he had, what he thought, were snotty-nosed little bankers coming along telling him that they wanted to see his forecasts and budgets, he felt he didn’t need to do that. So, in the months before they pulled, there had clearly been some bad interactions between Nigel andRecent years have been turbulent, but Cropper has discovered a professionalism previously lacking in the business, and a corner has been turned Words Darryl Danielli the bank – to the point where RBS withdrew.

But I guess it probably wasn’t that uncommon, entrepreneurial business owners of his generation were probably used to relationship banking, but that changed after the crisis?
True. And he was always like that, bless him, he could just pick up the phone run through some numbers from the back of a fag packet and didn’t really need to do anything else to get what he wanted. He was the same when it came to buying companies. He would buy a company and then keep the same people running it, and then after two or three months he would send me in to find out what was wrong and why it wasn’t making any money. We bought one company in Hastings, I realised what was wrong in 48 hours and came back, wrote my report up highlighting what we need to change and he then got the guy in and said, ‘Steve’s written this about you, what do you think’. Thanks Nigel. But that was kind of his style.

Different to yours then?[Laughs] But it taught that me that you need to be transparent in business. If the bank or a supplier wants information, they want it for a reason, they’re under pressure their end. So, it’s only right that you give them the information that gives them the confidence to lend or offer credit. But back to then though, Nigel did have the foresight to talk to other bankers and had another one up hissleeve. So when RBS pulled funding and appointed Grant Thornton [to advise] in January [2011], which meant every cheque had to go through them, while it was a fraught few weeks, we knew we could get through it. It seemed bizarre, though, as we [technically] had £750,00 available to us with the bank through the invoices we could draw against. Trust me, I would love to have that kind of availability in the run-up to Christmas these days [laughs].

It must have been a stressful time?
Well, come late February Nigel had a heart attack, a large one, and he was in hospital from then until he passed away in July. That must have been awful. Was he majority shareholder at the time? He owned 51%, with John Boyle having 49%. John had never really been involved with the company though – he would probably fly down once a year, take Nigel out to lunch, talk about how well business was doing and that was it.

Here’s your dividend, thank you.
I guess. He was a very successful entrepreneur with lots of investments.

Was he more an investor than someone running businesses then?
No, he ran businesses too. His main thing was building Direct Holidays and selling it to Airtours [in the late 1990s] for around £78m. John, to be fair to him, was incredibly supportive. In the January, he cancelled his holiday and helped Nigel with the banks. In the period after Nigel’s heart attack, we undertook a review of the group’s businesses, because we needed that transparency.

And with Nigel in hospital, I suppose, with his management style a lot of the knowledge of the business was stuck in hospital too?
Before he had the heart attack I never really had the chance to have input or help manage the other businesses, it was always from afar, and he would then work with the other businesses and just say ‘Steve says you need to do this or that’ but I could never get directly involved.

So, you were the managing director of the main [Shoreham-on-Sea] site, but there were other people running the other sites – you just played the role of the bad guy, without ever getting close to the other businesses?
That’s a one way to put it. Anyway, we then started to look at the other businesses and what was going on. I spent a lot of time up at Heathfield, we had a plant up there called Quentin Press and it was losing money quite badly. We stemmed the losses, and after six months it was going the right way but it was still a drain on the top company [Gemini], so we made the difficult decision to close it in October 2011.

Was the complicated structure of the business back then masking the unprofitable parts because you didn’t have the visibility?
Yes. Let’s just say that money coming up from the top company was funding the unprofitable parts.

And I suppose that’s not that uncommon when a company has an entrepreneurial owner who controls everything and no-one else has the group-wide visibility?
Exactly. And that was why we made the collective decision that I would spend my time across all of the businesses and do a review and see where we ended up.

So, what happened after Nigel passed away? Did John buy the remaining stake in the business?
He did eventually, between Nigel and John there was a ‘put and call’ scenario. So, it wasn’t easy. John was also in the mind of why should he but this, as it was going through a period of uncertainty. I also had to go to court to get a ad colligenda bona that allowed me to become the secretary of the company and then approach John to see if he wanted to buy the company. He said yes, so I had to get an independent valuation and then distribute the funds to Nigel’s estate. Although it wasn’t quite as easy as that probably makes it sound. It took around nine months.

It still doesn’t sound easy.
And in all that time suppliers, credit insurers everyone needed to know what was happening with the company, so we had to reassure them and beg, borrow, steal favours to keep the business going.

And all that just after coming out of special measures with the bank?
That wasn’t too bad as we had managed to keep that within the business and manage it – to ensure everyone got paid.

It must have been an incredibly tough year though?
We’ve probably had tougher [laughs].

Really? Wow!
It was quite an experience though. And then after that I had to put Quentin Press into liquidation, which was just awful. It was something I had never done before and was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and something I don’t ever want to have to do again. Telling the staff that we had to close the company was just awful.

It does sound like the year from hell.
You could say that. And then in around April 2012 we completed the sale to John. John was an incredibly patient investor though and he knew that we needed investment, so he started to invest in finishing equipment in 2012/2013 and then we put in two [Heidelberg Speedmaster] XLs in 2014.

How big was the company then in around 2010/11?
At its height, it was over £20m. But with one company closing and unravelling the rest, it ended up around £14m. In our last accounts, it was back up to £16m and our run rate this year is £18m.

But presumably more profitable now than when you were at your peak?
That’s hard, because it was a different time and margins have been eroded across the industry.

It certainly sounds more sustainable.
Yes. Absolutely. We’ve also invested £8m over the past five years, prior to that most investment was simply to support the companies, when really we should have been consolidating the business. But Nigel had this vision for satellite companies all over the place. Now, they [the investments] are about growing the business, setting a strategic direction. Which is presumably when the good news starts? Well, when did Paperlinx go? 2015. Well, Paperlinx’s largest hub was just up the road [on the same trading estate as Gemini]. So, we could go up at any time of day or night to collect paper, because we had no storage space at the time – they were our warehouse. So, probably 90% of our paper was bought from up the road. So, that April, when Paperlinx went bust, that was hard – we had to find £400,000 of paper a month and we had no credit lines with the other merchants as we hardly used them. But the paper industry came to the fore, people like Antalis and Denmaur really stepped up to help us – but we kept hitting our credit limits because they couldn’t keep up with our usage. At one point I think we were having to pay on 15 days. So that was tough, probably for a year. Stora was really good too and we were buying significant tonnage from them, but we had nowhere to store it at the time – so we would have paper outside under tarpaulins in the middle of winter.

Not exactly ideal then?
It was painful for about year, until some new units were built on the estate and we took one for our paper store. Now we probably have £300,000 of paper onsite at any one time. Looking back there were clearly signs that Paperlinx was in trouble, but I never really knew what credit insurance was before then, never needed to – we never hit a limit. But after Paperlinx I became very aware, and I realised that we needed to be even more accountable.

It goes back to what you said about transparency?
Yes. We had always had a ‘fit for purpose’ financial controller rather than a financial director when Nigel ran the business and one of things we agreed as a board was that we needed a financial director, someone to run the business by numbers. End of. So, we recruited Owen [Jones] in October 2011. His first job was to help me liquidate Quentins. So, we now run the place by numbers, absolutely everything is measured and we have total transparency across the business and Owen has been instrumental in that.

I suppose you had to put all those processes in place after Nigel died?
Absolutely everything. Before that [monthly] management reports were only published after three or four months, and even then Nigel would ask why did I need them.

So, even though you were managing director you didn’t have any access under Nigel?
Not really, I never saw audited accounts up to that point. I was a young director of the company – ‘fit for purpose’ if you like, because he needed someone to sign things off. So, I would be given things to sign, and when I asked what they were, I was just told ‘don’t worry about it, just sign’. It wasn’t until the unfortunate death of Nigel, that we had the auditors come in and they showed me a list of things that were wrong with the accounts. They showed me a list of letters that had been sent to me over the previous six years, and I had never seen any of them. Anyway, that’s all in the past and just another
thing we had to deal with at the time.

A bit worrying though?
And, in some respects, as difficult as all those things were at the time, they kick started the programme of improving the business and making
sure it was well run and much more transparent. It meant that we could open our doors to anyone, institutions, suppliers, who needed to know the financial side of things. And overthe past five or so years, opening up to them, speaking to them, letting them into Gemini and working with them as a partner, not just a supplier or lender, has got us though the tough times over the years. Like Brexit.

Hang on, have there been any goodtimes?[Laughs] I’ll get to those, it’s not all doom and gloom!

Thank god.
The good thing is that we got through all of what’s happened. Then next was Brexit. The first three months of 2016 things were looking really good, and me and Owen thought this might be our first good year with no drama. Then the Brexit vote came along, didn’t really care either way, but I just wanted stability…

…understandably after the previous few years.
So, I wanted us to stay in. Prior to the vote, we had a run rate of £75,000 a day across the group. Literally the day after the vote it was £15,000 and that was the pattern for weeks. So, we had to make a decision at that time buy turnover, almost at any cost, just to keep the IF lines turning and ensure we were in business.

Presumably, that was a short-term fix though?
Of course, we put a plan together and flew up to Scotland to see John and present it to him – essentially what we needed to do with the business, where we were going to go and the last fundamental point was asking John what was he going to do – because we needed more investment. I had the bit between my teeth. But during the presentation, he gave me and Chris Pennison…

Who’s Chris?
Chris came into to do a review of the business around three years ago. He has a manufacturing background and he’s one of John’s advisers. He had been working with us for around 18 months [at the time]. John is a really nice, pleasant, enthusiastic guy, but during the presentation he was tearing strips out of Chris and myself and I just couldn’t figure out what was going on. At the end of it he said that we had given him all the answers he needed and he told us that he was planning to retire a year later and we needed to organise an MBO or he was going to sell the business. He then told us to go into next room, come up with a figure and he wanted the number sorted before we went out for lunch.

You’re joking?
I was shell shocked. I flew up that morning to sort out some new investment and flew home that evening having just orchestrated an MBO. Without actually knowing how I would. This was in November 2016.

You kept that quiet?
We wanted to really. John was sitting there – our multimillionaire guardian angel – and that had really helped us get though some of the tough times. So, if it got around that he was coming out of the business, what would people think? So, we kept it low key. Don’t get me wrong, all the key partners were kept fully informed.

Learning the lessons from the past.
Absolutely. John was really good too, once we agreed the money he then gave us a year’s grace to start paying it back in monthly instalments so that we didn’t overburden the business. I couldn’t be more grateful to him for the way he handled that, it also enabled me to come back here and speak to all the directors and ask them if they wanted to be part of it.

Who else was in the MBO team?
Owen, Rob [Page, the managing director of the Bristol business], Matt [Cooper production director], Nick [Gwynne, sales director], Chris [Pennison, chairman] and Andrew[Lapping, non-executive director. Since then, Julie Beard [digital director] has become a board member and shareholder and Mark Tulley, sales director is also on the board.

I’m still trying to get my head around the fact you only had a few hours to agree a price for the business?
I think we went back two or three times that day, but we agreed.

And he’s not involved anymore?
No, but he’s still interested and has been a great mentor. He came down around two months ago and wanted to see the new press, he’s still enthused by what we’re doing. And I’ll never forget that if he hadn’t stepped in [in 2011] then 140 people would have lost their jobs. Not just then to be fair, there was a period when it felt like we would get through one challenge and then ‘bang’ something else would come along.

You must have learned a hell of lot in that period though?
Oh yes.

And the tough times are all behindyou now, plain sailing, post MBO?
In comparison. We had a new press come in last year, brilliant press [10-colour Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 105], we got it secondhand from Exel, they did really well. But it was due in July/August as we identified that as the best time. But it didn’t come in until September/October, our busiest period, the other press was being decommissioned and then over October/November we had to reverse all the finishing equipment we had moved to make room. Matt and myself are pretty good at planning, but it knocked us both for six – it didn’t quite get to the point where I had to cancel my wedding, but I nearly had to cancel my honeymoon.

What was the delay?
It was from a failed business in Italy, but the insolvency process there is very complex so it just took a lot longer than any of us planned. But we got through it. January and February were a little quiet, but since March though, we just keep breaking records, and I’m really looking forward to this month because September is always a busy month anyway, so if we keep the trend up it should be really good. And we’re doing lots of really positive things.

When do you catch a breath though?
We took on two reps plus six staff at Bristol after Kingsdown went down, and that’s been very good for us. People might have questioned years ago why we kept Bristol going, it was losing anything between £75,000 and £100,000 a year, but it was feeding the top company £750,000 in sales, so the cost of a rep would be that value. And, to be honest, after having to close Quentins down, I was damn sure I was going to make Bristol work. There are some really good people there, and since Rob [Page, managing director] joined the business has dramatically changed. I think the Kingsdown people joining was the last piece of their puzzle. So, it’s a double win, not only is the site now profitable, but its generating even more sales for the top company [the Shoreham-on-Sea site] too.

So, the business has certainly turned the corner then?
Absolutely. One of the other positives is that we have also branched out into other areas. Two things have shocked me: the success of digital in Bristol and the growth of the promotional merchandise business. Managed document solutions is an opportunity for us too, where we look at our clients, ask what they’re doing with this, how are they doing that and identifying areas where we can help them – basically trying to understand their businesses better so that we can look at new areas where we might be able to help them.

That’s interesting, because I guess what you’re talking about is the lead supplier model – which a lot of the big groups are adopting?
It’s about understanding our clients better, finding out what their challenges are and seeing if we can help them with them, because it might be easy for us, but very hard for them.

So, what’s next?
Growth and investment. We’re reviewing our MIS, looking at webto-print. I want to plug our skills gap too, and finding people can be difficult here, so the alternative is investing in new technology that enables the people we have to do more. Large-format is another area I’m looking at dipping our toe in. I’ve got a shopping list spec’d, I know what I want to do. But on the flip side I would also look at a company that could benefit from investment, so look for a business with the existing skills that needs a bit of love and would benefit from us giving them quite a bit of turnover.

Buying another company?
Possibly. I’ve started to look down that route. We’ve got a very good business here now. I wouldn’t say the market has got any easier, but looking on what’s going on here I’m pretty confident, we’re in a strong position now, rather than flying by the seat of our pants like we had been for the past six or seven years.

So, you’ve been through a period of turbulence, probably more than most, learned a lot and you’ve now got the solid foundations from which to build on?
I would say an important part of that is that over the past three or four years I’ve also surrounded myself with good people in key areas. People that challenge me and the business, and that’s important to me. I want to be tested. We’re more professional now than we have ever been.

You mentioned earlier that you you’ve learned a lot, is there anything you would have done differently?
Other than wipe out the last seven years you mean?

To be fair that wasn’t of your making though.
I probably would have got more involved with sales earlier. Coming from a production background I always saw sales from afar. But a couple of years ago I moved to sit in the middle of the sales team for around 18 months, just to give me a better understanding and break down the ‘them and us’ culture in the business. Now everyone sits together and works together. Truth be told though, looking back at everything I probably don’t know what I did right and what I did wrong, but we’re still here. We’ve had some hard paper rounds in our time, but we’re still here. John, and Nigel, to be fair, taught me that we are the custodians of 160 people’s lives – and if we fail, it hurts a lot of people. I don’t want to fail.

But you’ve come out the other side now, the business is growing.
Looking at the positives you’re absolutely right, we’re in a good place now. But our auditors think we should be a case study on all the things that can go wrong. But we’re still here and I plan for us to be here for another 30-40 years.

Last question then: what advice would you give you younger self if you could go back in time?
Believe in myself. After everything we’ve been through, I certainly do now.

By |September 21st, 2018|Categories: Print|0 Comments

Paper Prices Rising In October

The following information is an excerpt from a feature published in Print Week magazine on the 6th September 2018.


More paper price rises are on the way next month with merchants issuing letters outlining increases of up to 8% after receiving notification from the mills of the need to put prices up.

This is the fourth time this year that price rises have been announced, with rising production costs – in particular the soaring price of pulp – cited as the driving force.

Premier Paper Group, Denmaur Paper Media and Elliott Baxter have all written to their customers this week flagging up price rises that will take effect from Monday 8 October. The increases cited were between 4-7% and 5-8%.

“We do very much share the frustrations of our customers with the current cycle of paper price increases, but the reality is that this is not just a UK increase but there is upward pressure on paper prices right across Europe,” said Premier Paper Group marketing director David Jones.

“The main driver being that, globally, pulp prices continue to rise to unprecedented levels due to demand and availability.”

Products affected include all wood free coated and uncoated grades in reels, sheets and cut sizes, as well as office papers and a number of other board and speciality products.

“This is a big jump since last year, and my customers are asking us why the price is so much more,” said one lithographic printer.

“We’ve had three rounds of 5-8%, and that’s quite a chunk. Although we update our MIS system straightaway, it’s difficult when we’re producing periodicals for some customers and have agreed on a price for the year.”

One web offset printer told PrintWeek that his company had been notified of 7-8% increases in woodfree grades in October, with all other grades likely to follow in January.

“Our customers are changing the specification, frequency, and quantities of their titles as a result,” he said.

Earlier this year supplies of some paper grades were squeezed due to a “perfect storm” of global events, and non-integrated mills have struggled in the face of the pulp increases, with three European papermakers going bust this year.

Demand for pulp has ballooned in more profitable business areas such as hygiene and packaging products, while at the same time consumption of graphical papers has declined.

A paper merchanting expert said that since November 2016 the price of NBSK pulp had increased from $810/tonne (£627/tonne) to $1,230 tonne at present.

“I’ve counted nine paper price rises in the past 27 months. The first increases were Brexit and currency-related, but since then it’s been the price of pulp,” he said.

“Pulp has gone up by around £300 a tonne, while the paper has gone up by £180 a tonne in that time. The suppliers are struggling.”

Working with our paper suppliers, Gemini Print will be publishing a fact sheet for customers explaining the global forces and market dynamics that are impacting prices.

If you have any questions, please contact Suzanne Heaven, Marketing Director at marketing@gemini-print.co.uk or call 01273 464 884 

By |September 10th, 2018|Categories: Print|0 Comments

Data Marketing Executive/Graduate

Although some debate that ‘content is king’ nobody disputes that the power behind a successful strategy is data. Working with the marketing director, you will be at the centre of driving a new standard of data led business development and brand marketing campaigns for our range of products and services across the UK.

The role is at the head office of the Gemini Print group in Shoreham by Sea.  Gemini Print has been providing top quality printing services for more than 40 years. The team of +160 people work together to provide high standard commercial printing (litho, digital and large format), promotional products, branded merchandise, and managed document solutions plus innovative print and online strategies.

For the right applicant, there could be a flexible approach re hours of work to enable, e.g. masters studies or family commitments

Role:

  • Enhance prospect and client relationships through regular data contact programmes
  • Gain effective lead generation (new and repeat) from all data sources
  • Monitoring online lead generation to assess changes and actions required
  • Analysing and updating databases to ensure accuracy, correctly targeted customer contact and timely relevant contact
  • The creation, implementation and assessment of full e-marketing and mailing campaigns using Dotmailer to meet agreed KPI
  • Ensure the website organic reach is running to maximum potential minimising bounce rates and maximising lead generation
  • Protect online brand position from competitor activity
  • The management of data led market research and surveys to assess customer service and satisfaction levels
  • Reports and analysis to demonstrate effective ROI from data work
  • Monitor opportunities, trends and new practices to propose shifts and developments to Gemini Print marketing activity

Skills:

  • Relevant business or marketing degree educated
  • Computer proficiency
  • Data analytics
  • Google skills
  • Database marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Report writing
  • Excel
  • CRM knowledge
  • GDPR awareness

Attributes:-

  • Detail accuracy/focused
  • Passionate about project achievement and success
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Hard working/high performer

Please apply in writing to Suzanne Heaven marketing@gemini-print.co.uk considering all points above. Please provide comment re your experience and expertise in addition to a standard CV.

Applications will close 20th September 2018.  The recruitment process will include:-

  1. Brief telephone interview with the marketing director
  2. Face to face interview with up to two directors
  3. Final selection interview of final shortlisted candidates
By |August 29th, 2018|Categories: Print|0 Comments

For Goodness Sake!

Why the power of print and paper is a positive approach

One of the customer service team based at the Gemini Print Bristol office told us “Talking to a friend recently about plastic poisoning helped me understand more about how important it is that we provide so many eco solutions for our customers. To think – we now have so many options that include organic branded merchandise and promotional products, biodegradable hi gloss digital printing, litho printing inks with a vegan certificate to high quality effectively managed paper sources with a total chain of custody to name but a few!”.

Long before it was deemed fashionable to ensure your firm was eco-active the Gemini Print Group teams were reviewing every stage of their operation to achieve and succeed with effective eco-certification and accreditation.  The south-east team based at the Shoreham by Sea HQ in addition to the Bristol, London and North East based colleagues are proud of the standards Group Managing Director Steve Cropper ensures everyone consistently strives to develop and enhance the options for customers.

We were impressed and inspired with the writings of David Gamage, Managing Director at Earth Island Publishing Ltd based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.  He published the following feature on Linked In on August 9th 2018.

At last everybody is talking. Thankfully the world is waking up to the environmental debate. Starting with plastics in the ocean we hope this is going to spread to be a fuller, more comprehensive and in-depth conversation about the environment and sustainability, which will at last see people take look at this issue with the seriousness it deserves.

Perhaps now, more than ever, the graphic arts industry, have the greatest opportunity to put across our environmental ethos and show how making a simple change to paper-based communications, paper-based packaging, and paper-based alternatives, can help the environment, by not only lessening the consumption of unsustainable resources, but also through the positive effects of planting and growing more and more trees, using a product that is quickly and easily recycled and reused, and working with producer companies that put the environment and sustainability firmly in the centre of their businesses.

A heartfelt ‘thank you’ Sir David! Since the wonderful Blue Planet, with our national hero David Attenborough, highlighted the huge problem of plastics in the seas – and the terrible environmental impacts that this is having – the whole world is taking notice of this problem. Thank you, Mr Attenborough.

Of course, this is something that all Earth Island’s magazines – Print Solutions, Packaging Solutions, and of course Green Solutions – have been writing about for some years. Yet, what is needed is a public and respected figure such as David Attenborough to connect with the general public and all of a sudden it is big news – and we really couldn’t be happier!

It is estimated that 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s. Research indicates that without urgent action to cut demand this is likely to be 34 billion tonnes by 2050. By which time, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish! That is not just a throwaway statistic. That is absolutely earth shattering – in more ways than one!

The ‘cut plastics’ message has been bolstered by the government’s own 25 Year Environment Plan, where ‘avoidable plastic waste will be eliminated by the end of 2042’. Yet, 2042 is a long way off, and by then, if we do nothing now, the earth will have been impacted so badly that we will have gone past the point of return. We need to act now – in 2018 – not in 2042. We need to act today. We need to act fast. And, we all need to take responsibility for our actions at home, at work and at play.

Keith Taylor is Green MEP for the South East and a member of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee. In response to the government’s announcement, he said: ‘Theresa May rightly identified the scourge of plastic pollution as one of the most urgent problems facing Britain and the planet. Sadly, however, the announcement of the 25 Year Environ-mental Plan provided scant detail of any policies the Government hopes to implement to actually tackle the issue. The Prime Minister also completely failed to acknowledge that to have any hope of winning the fight against a plastic pollution problem that has no respect for borders, it is essential Britain works closely and collaboratively with its neighbours.’

The government has already extended the 5p plastic carrier bag charge to all retailers in England. To date, we have used nine billion fewer plastic bags as a direct consequence of introducing the charge to inject new funding into plastics innovation through a bid into the government’s £7 billion research and development pot. This is great, but why it does not simply outlaw plastic bags completely and allow the use of sustainable and biodegradable paper-based bags is beyond me – but that is a rant for another day!

And, why is this research money going only to ‘plastics’ innovation? What about some government funding for more sustainable alternatives such as paper or paperboard? Our papermaking industry in the UK has been in decline for decades – not due to lack of knowledge and skills, but mostly due to past governments turning a blind eye to the problems of running a competitive industry in a European market. Yet, the few mills that we now have left are at the pinnacle of creative innovation – and all are hugely successful in their environmental work, pioneering and leading the world on processes such as one use coffee cup recycling.

But, to come back to the oceans. In the UK alone, during its recent Great British Beach Clean Up, the Marine Conservation Society found 718 pieces of litter for every 100 metre stretch of beach surveyed, and of this rubbish from food and drink made up at least one fifth. Prime minister Theresa May said, ‘This truly is one of the great environmental scourges of our time. We must reduce the demand for plastic, reduce the number of plastics in circulation and improve our recycling rates. To tackle it we will take action at every stage of the production and consumption of plastic.’

So, a call to arms for all of us? Well, we have heard from many environmental organisations about the problem. We have seen many schemes – from school children cleaning up beaches to free water refill stations and the ‘ditch plastic straws’ campaign – calling for a reduction in plastics. Many of these fine people have been kind enough to mention that there is an alternative to plastics – paper based products, which are biodegradable, sustainable and more eco-friendly.

Committing – Research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has found that the equivalent of one dumper truck’s worth of plastic enters the oceans every minute, and by 2050 it forecasts there could be more plastic (by weight) in the ocean than fish. Today, only 14% of plastic packaging gets collected for recycling.

Big brands are already committing to reduce their plastics. This is a massive opportunity for packaging producers and designers who can offer more sustainable options like paper.

Unilever, for instance, has called for the consumer goods industry to step up its efforts to tackle the mounting challenge of ocean plastic waste and create a circular economy for plastics.

One year after Unilever made its commitment to ensure 100% of its plastic packaging was fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, CEO Paul Polman welcomed news that ten other companies have made similar pledges. These include big names such as Amcor, evian, L’Oréal, Mars, Marks & Spencer, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, and Walmart. Other brands such as McDonald’s Waitrose, Tetra Pak and Iceland have also made commitments to reduce, or completely eliminate plastics from their supply chains.

Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman said, ‘Addressing the issue of ocean plastic is a shared responsibility – all stakeholders in the value chain must work together in partnership to find effective solutions. However, there is no doubt that the response from the consumer goods industry will be amongst the most critical in determining the speed at which positive change takes place. We are at a critical juncture.’

Unilever has made good progress on reducing its waste footprint. Since 2010, the waste associated with the disposal of its products has decreased by 28% and the weight of its packaging has reduced by 15%. The company also stopped sending non hazardous waste to landfill from its manufacturing sites in 2015. But Unilever is just one brand owner who will have to replace its plastics with alternatives. It is estimated that the companies who have signed up to date influence more than six million metric tonnes of plastic packaging each year.

Nearer to home, the BBC is also introducing a three step plan to remove single use plastic from its operations by 2020. Plastic cups and cutlery will be scrapped by the end of 2018, ending the use of around two million plastic cups used by visitors and staff across the BBC’s sites a year. Several sites have already begun to remove plastic cups from kitchens and replace with glasses wherever possible. This will be rolled out to all BBC offices. Plastic containers will be removed from canteens by 2019 starting with a pilot in Salford, where the company is trialling a coffee cup recycling scheme.

The BBC aims to be completely free of single use plastic across by 2020. Discus-sions will take place over the coming months with current suppliers and services to assess when further changes can be introduced, cutting the amount of single use plastic in other parts of its operations such as coffee cups, packaging of products it buys and catering on location. The company also states that any new contracts which come up for tender will also include the requirement to cut single use plastic.

Following on from Blue Planet II, BBC One has commissioned a 90 minute special with science and wildlife presenter Liz Bonnin setting out to reveal the full scale of the world’s plastic problem and explore ways in which science can offer a solution. Tony Hall, BBC director general, said: ‘Like millions of people watching Blue Planet II, I was shocked to see the avoidable waste and harm created by single use plastic. We all need to do our bit to tackle this problem, and I want the BBC to lead the way. Scrapping throwaway plastic cups and cutlery is the first step, and with our plan, I hope we can have a BBC free of single use plastic altogether.’

Just don’t make them! If we all banned plastic bottles from the workplace, the UK would save 3.9 billion bottles from being produced by 2020. The saving would amount to 156,000 tonnes of plastic a year. These are the findings of office provider Desk.co.uk which is spear-heading a campaign to have all single-use plastic bottles outlawed by 2020.

Jonathan Ratcliffe, the spokesman for the company, commented: ‘Thirty per cent of all plastic drinking bottles are used in the workplace, that works out at a staggering 3.9 billion bottles a year in the UK being made for what purpose? What is wrong with using a glass and a tap for crying out loud!’ He continued, ‘You have people sitting at work drinking from single-use plastic bottles when a walk to the kitchen to refill a glass would help cut over 156,000 tonnes of plastic from being produced in the first place.’

According to RecycleNow statistics, Britons get through:

  • 480 plastic bottles a year per household.
  • 35 million plastic bottles per day nationally.
  • 13 billion plastic bottles a year nationally (2016).

According to BusinessWaste.co.uk, the biggest saving that can be made in terms of energy is not producing things in the first place, and like the smoking ban, UK lawmakers have to take enforce such a change.

It has been revealed that 44% of plastic bottles do not get recycled by households, the fears are that businesses throw even more than that away.
‘Recycling plastic is well and good, but if we didn’t make the things in the first place it just wouldn’t be an issue,’ said Jonathan. ‘There is a huge push by office providers up and down the country to reduce both waste and energy consumption and we need help. We need the government to step in.’

Recent years have seen a huge increase in the amount of offices using water fountains – but even these aren’t without their environmental impact. Plastic cups, the water fountains and the water bottles themselves are all plastic and cost resources to move around.

The Mayor of London has announced a plan to build a network of water fountains in London in a push to reduce our love of one use plastic bottles, whilst many shops such as Neal’s Yard, supermarkets, and malls are now switching on to the ‘refill station’ initiative, whereby a ‘tap’ is provided for shoppers to refill reusable water containers for free. ‘We are 100% behind Mayor Khan with his efforts to totally discourage bottles, however his plans simply do not go far enough for us. We would like to see a policy towards phasing them out altogether,’ added Jonathan.

Louise Green, head of sustainability at Neal’s Yard Remedies, said: ‘We already have sink stations with taps on the shop floor of many of our stores so it made sense to allow people to fill up when they drop by. We want to offer people a convenient way to stay hydrated so they don’t need to keep buying plastic bottles and contribute to the global issues around plastic waste.’

This issue will continue to be debated, but we really need to ensure that we do more than ‘talk’. Action is needed and it is needed now. Thankfully, there are alternatives – many of which come from our own industry. We really do need to shout about it more though, otherwise the world will continue to scratch its head and say, ‘what on earth will we do if we don’t have plastics’ and governments will continue to pump billions into plastics research.

We really do need to make this a cohesive, coherent and concerted effort to spread the love, and the truth, about paper based products further. Now is our time, and we would be foolish to miss this amazing opportunity.

Additionally, did you know…
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has awarded VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland for a packaging solution made of.
VTT is one of the five prize winners, between whom the foundation splits a one million dollar prize. The new material can extend the shelf life of food, while also reducing food waste and the worldwide microplastics problem.

As material, cellulose is safe, renewable, recyclable and compostable. VTT developed a compostable and lightweight packaging material by combining cellulose films with different, but complementary properties.

The plastic like packaging material is suitable for dry and greasy products, such as nuts, cereals, coffee, condiments and raisins. The greatest benefits can be reached when the material is used for packaging products with a long shelf life.

In terms of properties, the material is highly competitive or in many cases even better than the currently available biodegradable bio-plastics. With minor modifications, it can be produced with existing production machinery. Optimisation of cellulose layers produces excellent packaging properties.

The packaging can be produced by combining cellulose films with different properties. The flexible and transparent lightweight material protects the product from atmospheric gases and humidity. It also forms a barrier against the grease or mineral oil in the product. The package can be sealed by heating.

‘By optimising the layer structure, we can improve the technical properties and reduce the amount of materials used. If the package was manufactured of one cellulose based material only that would meet all the requirements for a good packaging material, the package would be very thick and heavy,’ said Ali Harlin, research professor at VTT. He estimates that the packaging material can be commercialised within three to five years.

On 15 August 2017, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation announced a prize aimed at seeking new materials to solve the global micro-plastics problem. The matter is urgent: it has been estimated that every year more than eight million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in oceans.

‘In a New Plastics Economy, plastics will never become waste or enter the ocean in the first place. To get there will require new levels of commitment and collaboration from industry, governments, designers and start ups. I hope these innovations will inspire even more progress, helping to build a system in which all plastic materials are reused, recycled or safely composted,’ said Dame Ellen MacArthur.

Also, did you know…
A new collaborative initiative will help turn the tide on the UK’s growing issue of plastic waste – if all of the plastic bottles that are not collected for recycling in the UK each year were placed end to end, they would go around the world 31 times.

The ambitious UK initiative will involve collaborative action and commitment by businesses, industry, governments, local authorities, NGOs, media and society at large, to re-define what is possible and create a plastic system that works – a circular economy where plastic is valued and never becomes waste.

The initial focus will be on plastic packaging and will aim to:

  • Eliminate unnecessary and problematic single use plastic packaging.
  • Make sure all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable.
  • Significantly increase the collection and recycling of plastic packaging.
  • Increase recycled content in plastic packaging to drive demand for recycled material.
  • Impassion and enable citizens to play their part in reducing plastic packaging waste and litter.

The holistic initiative is currently in development by sustainable production and consumption experts WRAP, and is a joint partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Marcus Gover, CEO at WRAP, said: ‘So far the solutions to plastic waste have been piecemeal. I am pleased to be leading this holistic initiative which will transform the UK’s plastics system. Working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we will bring together every ‘body, business and organisation’ involved in the lifecycle of plastics to make the move from a throw away culture to one where resources are used over and over again.’

Dame Ellen MacArthur said: ‘Creating a circular economy for plastics amounts to a huge opportunity for the economy as well as providing a longer term benefit for the environment. Achieving it will require close collaboration and significant commitment from industry, government, and society at large. We are delighted to work with WRAP to help unleash such collaboration here in the UK, as a first national implementation initiative of our global New Plastics Economy initiative.’

And, did you know…
A new technology could dramatically increase recycling rates, as people should be able to recycle plastics in their own homes, and new build houses should come with the technology ready installed. That is the view of a major British waste and recycling company which says the technology already exists to allow plastics to be either pelleted or turned into useful items.

BusinessWaste.co.uk says that while the technology isn’t suitable for every home, it is a major step toward making the UK a 100% recycling economy. ‘We are very much at the ‘early adopters’ stage with this concept,’ said BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, ‘but this has the potential to grow very big indeed.’
Most plastic recycling is done by big companies and involves collecting waste plastics from homes and industry to be shredded and processed. The new process has been developed to allow domestic plastic shredders, much like household kitchen waste disposals. Householders will be left with sorted pelleted plastic waste, which they can either sell back to companies, or use for their own purposes.

Mark foresees a future where householders can just toss unwanted plastics down a chute in their kitchen, and it is shredded and collected ‘behind the scenes’. The potential for the technology is enormous. Mark added, ‘It is literally shred and forget, and the plastic pellets are just taken away.’ But for those who want to take the entire concept to its logical conclusion, waste plastics can be shredded and converted into other plastic products in the home.

‘Plastic pellets are easily converted into the ‘ink’ for 3D printers, and from there, the sky’s the limit,’ said Mark. People already experimenting with everyday household plastic waste say they are turning it into plates, bowls, cups and other items.

With BusinessWaste.co.uk campaigning for a society which recycles its waste as much as possible, the idea of in-home plastic shredding and re-use can only be a good one. ‘We are heading toward a no waste society where everybody’s involved with recycling,’ said Mark. ‘Not everybody has bought into the concept, but there are enough on board who see a future that keeps industry costs down by constant recycling of materials.’

But worryingly, the scary truth is…

  • It is estimated that more than eight million tonnes of plastics are dumped in the oceans each year.
  • Worldwide, more than one million plastic bags are used every minute.
  • More than one million plastic bottles are sold per minute worldwide.
  • The production process to make a bottle of water, takes six times more water than that contained within the bottle.
  • It can take between 500 and 1000 years for plastics to degrade – if it ever does! That means that the majority of plastics ever produced, still exist on the earth or in the oceans.
  • Plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds ever year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals.
  • The plastic debris also gets into food – like shellfish – so you may well be ingesting it too.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is more than twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one. This is the largest of these so called ‘gyres’, but there are four others which are growing.
  • Plastics will outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050.
  • The cause of all this pollution and environmental degradation? Us!

It’s time to put this right and for the paper, print and packaging industry to make sure it’s creativity and sustainability is known by all.

WELL SAID DAVID! Let’s all work together to keep ensuring people understand the power of print and paper  – when you would like the Gemini Print team to help improve the eco standards of your printing, communications and promotional projects just contact marketing@gemini-print or call 01273 464884.

By |August 15th, 2018|Categories: Print|0 Comments

FACEBOOK Using The Power of Print

Gemini Print are celebrating that another major brand has realised the power of print on paper – recognising that print is the powerful and effective way to get an important message across.

Social media giant Facebook launched GROW.  While always extolling the virtues of digital they quietly launched the British based quarterly magazine aimed at wealthy businesspeople in the UK and Northern Europe– some call it a brochure, most call it a magazine.  The cover of GROW states a ‘quarterly magazine for business leaders’ although this contrasts with their head of business marketing who says GROW is a ‘business marketing programme’ so it’s a brochure.  However, roles such as editor in chief and creative director plus Facebook executive Nicola Mendelsohn referring to Grow as a magazine in her introduction makes denial rather futile!

There is so much evidence to support the facts that a good piece of print has the power to engage people at a very deep level providing a trusted experience.  Digital media is increasingly becoming a tarnished communication for advertisers. ‘Rules of Attraction’ reports that 81% of people purchased an item or visited a place after reading about it in a magazine.

Grow magazine reaches the target readership through targeted mailing, at Facebook business events and selected lounges at airports and train stations to reach executives ‘in transit’.  Facebook stated in a post about Grow “We know that business leaders have limited times for long reads at work.”

Writers commissioned by Facebook present articles and features ranging from hipster profiles such as Oscar Olsson of H&M (the millennial whisperer) to the growth of technology in the Middle East and the new role of Paris as a startup hub.

Grow Your Business. Grow Your Network. Grow Your Mind

 Some people may raise an eyebrow that FACEBOOK has used the same title as a cannabis horticulture magazine that is on FACEBOOK and publishes a magazine in the US, but maybe it expresses their supreme brand confidence not caring about such things!

Paul Crimmen, Development Director, Gemini Print says “We welcome the recognition by Facebook that the most powerful approach to maximise engagement and response is through an effective multi-media approach.  Gemini Print are recognised as innovators guiding clients to gain from the strength of integrating print with online and multi-media.”

Paul and his team invite you to contact Gemini Print on 01273 464884 or marketing@gemini-print.co.uk for a free demonstration.  He says “customers are always so pleasantly shocked at the low entry cost to this powerful way to increase ROI on any marketing or communications – I typically have to repeat the price as they expect so much more for the huge value they can gain.”

By |July 27th, 2018|Categories: Print|0 Comments

Welcome to Your New Job With Gemini Print!

With consistent investment and development of services for customers across all aspects of printing, promotional products, mailing and fulfilment plus exciting innovations the award-winning Gemini Print team is looking for new people to join.

Established in Sussex for more than forty years the Gemini Print headquarters in Shoreham by Sea is well situated to be reached by road, rail or the coastal bus service so applicants from across Sussex can apply.

Matt Cooper, Production Director Gemini Print said “we are very proud to be recognised as the leading commercial printer who attracts the best skills and experienced people to join as they spot the chance to develop genuine career opportunities with a company that ‘dares to be different’.  Printing is not a glamorous industry.  It is however full of variety and challenges at Gemini Print as every project for our customers demands a bespoke high-quality response.  It is this creativity and adherence to precisely what customers need that provides the satisfaction that skills and performance excellence are respected and valued”.

Many apprenticeships and trainee opportunities that lead to progression and stable career development for roles that do not demand previous experience have disappeared from lots of business sectors across Sussex.  Gemini Print is delighted to be recruiting school leavers plus new trainees.

Criteria for trainee roles includes common sense, good communication,  team spirit, good honest work ethic, demonstration of the capability to listen and learn, and the promise of great performance!

Roles to apply for include:  www.gemini-print.co.uk/about-us/vacancies/

  • Pre Press Operator
  • Print Room Assistant
  • Print Finishing Supervisors
  • Print Room Assistant
  • Trainee Finishing Operator
  • Print Sales Consultants
  • Print Finishing – Continental Night Shift
  • Trainee Finishing Machine Operators

The Gemini Print Group Managing Director and CEO Steve Cropper is a great example of Gemini Print career progression. More than 30 years ago he joined as a van delivery driver!  Throughout the company, there are lots of examples of multi-generation and family team members – all goes to show that it is a good business to join!

For any information email marketing@gemini-print.co.uk

By |June 22nd, 2018|Categories: Print|0 Comments

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