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22 August 2013

News - Printer see’s bright future following deal

By SalesProEd @ 13:44 :: 1420 Views :: 0 Comments :: Article Rating
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Bell & Bain, the Glasgow-based printer of academic books and journals, has ramped up its sales projection for the year after investing £3.75 million in high-specification printing and booking technology.

The company recorded its best-ever monthly sales in June and July thanks to the enhanced capability brought by the investment, which helped it land a lucrative contract with Oxford University Press.

The rapid growth has led Bell & Bain to revise its sales forecast for the year up from 8% to 15%, putting it on track to hike its current £8m turnover by a further £1m.

Plans are being made to boost its highly-skilled, 80-strong workforce, which could see 10 new members of staff added to the roster at the 182-year old company.

The investment at Bell & Bain was driven by a £3.4m asset finance deal with Bank of Scotland.

It helped the company install a large format KBA four back four colouring printing press at its Thornliebank site - believed to be the only one of its kind in Scotland - which cut print production time in half. Some £1m was also invested in bookbinding technology.

The firm's chairman and chief executive Ian Walker, who acquired Bell & Bain with managing director Stephen Docherty and sales director Tony Campbell in a management buyout in 2009, said the bank support had been "vitally important" to the company's ambitions.

Mr Walker said: "This is the single biggest investment we have made in one go, in one tranche. It was very important we had the finance to do it when we did.

"We had a record month in June but we have just beaten that record in July. The timing of the investment was absolutely critical. We had an idea that would be the case but it has really turned out to be that way.

"Without the Bank of Scotland (funding) at that level it would have been difficult to get it from someone else, I think."

Bell & Bain dispatches 96% of its output to the "Bermuda Triangle of books" - the universities of Cambridge and Oxford and London - where its clients include Cambridge University Press, Taylor and Francis, John Wiley and McGraw Hill.

Non-fiction and academic books represent the firm's core market - Oxford University Press accounts for a third of its business - though it also prints religious and fiction books.

While parts of the book publishing world have suffered as consumers switch to reading on tablet devices, Mr Walker said demand for academic books and journals remains vibrant.

He said: "It reflects the content we produce - it is not easy reading. It is best to read it on the printed page than on a screen.

"This year, as a result of the investment, we had hoped to grow our sales roughly by about 8%.

"After the last two months, the strike rate has now gone up to 15% from 2012. That is what we are forecasting we will be at the end of 2013."

Mr Walker joined Bell & Bain as managing director in 2000. He said the progress now being made by the company vindicates the decision to buy the company out from Time Active Capital (TAC).

He added: "We always knew it was a great business. That is why we bought it. It has become a very good business through investment and hard work."

John Steele, asset finance relationship manager at Bank of Scotland, said: "Bell & Bain is Scotland's oldest established printing and bookbinding business and are continuing to invest in technology and equipment.

They have identified key areas for growth and have benefited from our financial support and guidance.
"We've worked with Bell & Bain for over 10 years now and we're confident that they'll go from strength to strength as they develop the business across the UK and potentially into Europe."

In its most recent accounts available at Companies House, Bell & Bain reported pre-tax profits of £598,127 for the year ended December 31, 2011, up from £525,401 the year before.

Turnover was booked at £8.34m, compared with £8.33m in 2010.
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