Covid sends Bambra into administration

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The Melbourne print industry is reeling as high-profile print business Bambra Press goes into voluntary administration. The business is trading on, with administrators looking to sell it as a going concern.

Restructure necessary: John Wanless, Bambra Press
Restructure necessary: John Wanless, Bambra Press

A heartfelt owner John Wanless – widely respected as one of the industry's good guys – apologised to staff, customers, and suppliers, and said a Covid related 80 per cent drop in sales, together with a few significant bad debts, had left them stranded, and he couldn't see a way back without restructuring. He said he believed the company would continue, but in a reduced size.

While Wanless was contacting customers and suppliers, industry figures in Victoria are expressing their sadness at one of the most respected firms in the industry hitting the skids.

Wanless said, "The coronavirus had an immediate effect on Bambra (as it has with most businesses). From mid-March sales dropped by 80 per cent on last year, and combined with a few significant bad debts, our cash flow has been severely impacted.

"We have spent hours, days and weeks analysing different scenarios, also using this time to see if there was any significant bounce-back in sales. Sales have not bounced, and the only option for the business under any of the forecast scenarios is to restructure to a manageable size (about half or less than the current).

"The cost of restructure is out of our reach, which has led us to voluntary administration. The business will continue to operate as normal under voluntary administration, with the administrators looking to sell the business as a going concern.

"Leaving our staff, suppliers and customers in this predicament is the hardest and most unimaginable position we ever thought we would be in. There is an emotional attachment to all of the people we've worked with over the years, but unfortunately emotion needs to be put to the side, and the fact is that the hard decision had to be made. Knowing what the final outcome would be, we felt obliged to call it now rather than dragging it out for everyone.

"We thank all the people and businesses we have had the pleasure of dealing with over the journey, and apologise wholeheartedly."

Bambra carved out a solid reputation over the years built on quality and integrity, and winning multiple awards along the way. Wanless himself was one of the leading lights in the industry, the genial figure serving in multiple capacities in various associations, working for the betterment of the industry as a whole.

Wanless joined the business 28 years ago, and built it from a suburban print shop into an industrial powerhouse. He took full ownership in 2006, resisting Geon's overtures at the time.

Since he took over, the company made several acquisitions, including Atrium Studios, followed by Eclipse Graphics. Then came PrintWize, next up was Allardice Prepress. Perhaps the most significant, certainly the largest acquisition, came in 2015 with rival McKellar Renown, which he bought from the Norgate family. However, the loss of a major stamp contract soon after put a dampener on the purchase.

Bambra always invested in the best technology available and had a commitment to quality. Just last month it became the only printer in Australia to join the Academy of Certified Printers from paper manufacturer Arjowiggins, created to promote and encourage exceptional printing by some of the most precise printers in the world. Only 30 print businesses around the world are certified.

Certified: Bambra only Aussie print business to have the Arjowiggins Academy certification
Certified: Bambra only Aussie print business to have the Arjowiggins Academy certification
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