VIRUS: Printers nervous, hopeful, planning, preparing

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As the coronavirus sweeps the globe and efforts to contain it cause economic stress, Australian printers are just beginning to feel the effects. But there is optimism and comfort in the knowledge that the crisis will end.

Covid-19: sure to impact print

Print bosses Print21 talked to were all taking precautionary measures, such as mandating workers who could work from home do so, and halting non-necessary face-to-face meetings with clients.

Ian Smith of Advance press in Perth said the situation is like just before a cyclone hits. “It’s clear blue sky now, but you don’t know what’s off the coast,” he said. “I’m just starting to get the odd whiff of wind now – we’ve got work now, but we’re waiting for that cyclone to hit.”

Theo Pettaras at DigitalPress in Sydney said his group has been affected, and has had to make simple operational and logistical adjustments. “However, as a team and fully functional business, we remain both positive and responsible. There are still opportunities and print needs to get done. We're doing everything we possibly can to make sure our customers and team members alike aren’t compromised. We’re not panicking, we just need to be aware, hold our nerve, and be in control as much as we possibly can, making sure presses keep rolling,” he said.

Matthew Lowe, managing director at Flying Colours in Tasmania, said business hasn’t been too bad yet. “It’s hard to explain because things change every day and we’re operating on a day to day basis,” he said. “As we all know, government policy changes on a daily basis, we need to be adaptable and change on a daily basis as well.”

Lowe said there are definitely going to be changes, “It’s just a matter of whether the business is sustainable over a period that is unknown,” he said. “The key word is unknown. Nobody has any answers, nobody knows how long this is going to be around. I hope our industry bands together and helps each other and everyone is okay at the end of this.”

John Scott, director at Scott Print in Perth, said there had been a lot of job cancellations in the events space. "We’re planning for some tough times, and we've got good plans in place, and I don’t think we’ll see much this side of September,” he said.

Tom Eckersley, owner of Eckersley Print Group in Brisbane said it is a fluid situation at the moment, and printing isn’t at the frontlines of the crisis as transport, travel, and tourism are. But Eckersley said he expected some immediate impact on activity because his business serves those industries.

“As for the fallout, that’s an unknown entity. We need to plan and hope it stays for only a short time, but we all need to put some contingency plans in place,” he said.

“We just had a chat with our team and asked anybody who wants to take leave in the next three months to do so, and anyone who wants to work less – go from four days a week to three, for example – should think about it. We’re not at that stage yet, but we’re identifying the contingency now, and we’ll activate it at the proper trigger point.”

“But, it's much tougher for the industries out there on the front lines,” Eckersley said.

Theo Pettaras in his role as a board member of print business owners' association PVCA called on printers to work together through the crisis. He said, “The situation is concerning, of course it is, but we have to pull together and help one another. We are all worried within our industry about catching the coronavirus, which would effectively force businesses to quarantine and shut down for a period of time."

“As National Secretary of the PVCA I am aware that we are taking measures by organising a group of printers who can chip in and help others when necessary. I don’t think businesses should feel obligated to stop operating – there are others out there to help with the reassurance clients will not be compromised. You can’t afford to panic in times like this. These are unusually trying times, and we’ve got to stay focused.”

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