As ceo of well-established Nottingham printing and packaging business, The Sherwood Group, which also owns specialist greeting card printer, Loxleys, Jeremy Bacon has his finger on the pulse of trade at the production end. To his mind, it was only at the beginning of this month that the greeting card industry started to come out of “hibernation”. And Jeremy’s accounting training means he is well placed to read the economics of the situation. That said, lockdown has also meant that he has been around to see his first born take his first steps, so it has not been all bad!
PG Buzz persuades Jeremy Bacon, ceo of The Sherwood Group to share glimpses into his lockdown life as well as his predictions about trade will pan out in the new normal.
What is new ‘now’ like for you and The Sherwood Group? “At the start of this month it felt like the whole industry was starting to wake up from its hibernation, coinciding with the part-time furloughing coming into effect. Life in lockdown has certainly been a ‘Corona-coaster’ of highs and lows. I attended a HSBC seminar recently at which it compared trade in February with that of trade in April. Between these two months, manufacturing was down 27%, in fact the only area up was pharmaceuticals. Even food and drink was down 10.8% (we have not been drinking as much as we all thought then!), so the card trade is not alone. Things are now more stable as we all adjust to understanding the new normal.
From a Sherwood perspective, the fact that, in addition to greeting card production, we are also a BRC Food Packaging plant, which means that hygiene is custom and practice for us.
We have been open and serving customers throughout the lockdown, but as we now emerge we are cautiously stepping up our risk management.
Volume wise we are operating at around 80% of what we usually would at this time of year.”
What positive stuff has come out of this period? “The response of our team has been great – the factory has operated continually through the crisis in a safe and responsible manner.
Personally, working from home has been great. I have a 16-month old son, James Henry so however bad the day is, seeing his smiling face has put things into perspective. I have been very fortunate to see his first steps, first bike ride and first words which would not have happened if I had left home early for work and returned late as in the ‘old normal’.”
How do you reckon will things pan out? “A smaller industry certainly, at least initially. We have seen our Christmas production schedules shift a few weeks later than usual though orders placed are only 10% lower than last year.
It will be more telling when everyday card orders come in, at the moment a lot of stock is still ‘in the system’, with brokers sitting on 12 weeks’ of stock, plus retailers still having a lot in their storerooms.”
What would you say is the taste of the ‘new normal’? “Cherryade. Back in the 1970s, the bottles used to be home delivered by the Corona pop man. It was my favourite flavour. A bit of a challenge as to whether it was good for you or not, and there was always a slight burning sensation on your tongue, but it sent your head fizzing and gave you an adrenaline boost. Just like now!”
Top: Jeremy Bacon with his son James Henry on one of his first bike rides (JH’s, not Jez’s as he has cycled far and wide!).