Graeme Richardson-Locke discusses the impact COVID-19 is having on the industry with various FESPA Associations in France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal.
Today, I like so many of you am adjusting to the most determined effort to slow down the infection rate of COVID-19, the Coronavirus that is currently keeping 1 in 5 of the population of the world at home. If we have children they are with us and we’re trying to focus their attention towards home learning whilst protecting our older and more vulnerable family members in their extended isolation.
In the UK, we’re some weeks behind our fellow citizens in Italy and Spain who are experiencing what for us is yet to come. Thankfully, we’re seeing the first glimmer of hope from China of no new cases and a sign that a return to normal will come. The imperative to protect life by preventing all but essential contact with others is now underway and with commitment and respect for each other, we know that we’re doing our bit to ease the impossible pressures that our healthcare systems face.
As I sit at my table writing this blog, I am monitoring a rolling live blog of news on another screen, constantly changing but ever-increasing reports of social distancing strategies emerging across all continents remind me that every hour sees a new country is being drawn into the crisis. Our fear beyond our own is for the people of countries with less developed healthcare systems who are starting to identify cases.
When considering the impact on business and the finances of the vast majority of people it is almost impossible to digest the economic impact to come, the plunging value of stock markets and almost 500,000 people having applied for Universal Credit alone in the UK within the last nine days our hope remains that the G7 Finance Ministers have pledged, ‘that they will do whatever is necessary to restore confidence and economic growth, protect jobs, businesses and the resilience of the financial system’.
At FESPA, we’ve already faced, with our partners the difficult decision to postpone the FESPA Global Print Expo and the situation we find ourselves in today reaffirms that it was the only appropriate decision to make. I am encouraged that we’ve rebooked Madrid from 6 – 8 October this year, along with our European Sign Expo and Sportswear Pro. The FESPA Secretariat are all pleased that our shows will now go ahead on these re-scheduled dates and we remain very grateful to the IFEMA team, who have supported us under such extraordinary circumstances.
This morning I joined our FESPA Associations in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece alongside my FESPA colleagues via Zoom for a discussion about the impact being experienced by their members and how they are responding to calls for support.
Caption: Zoom conference call with our Southern European colleagues.
Each country reported their current experience, Enrico Barboglio from FESPA Italy explained that COVID-19 cases are not yet declining despite the lockdown and intensified measures to restrict infection. Some market sectors are still busy, packaging for food and pharmaceuticals remain strong however many are working well below capacity and the signs are that in the short term at least trading will become more difficult. He did mention that some printing and binding businesses have managed to reconfigure their lines in the production of face masks which are in high demand. The Point of Purchase and signage communities are supporting the installation of screens in supermarkets to protect staff and graphics to provide a visual reference for social distancing. They are also mobilising members to meet on Zoom and share their experiences and provide some welcome support.
Pablo Serrano of FESPA Spain echoed the experience in Italy, in addition to offering a similar situation he expressed that some sectors were already running at under half of their capacity and the situation is worsening. However, he did say that 3D Printers in additive manufacturing are working really hard to produce respirator parts and personal protective equipment to meet a burgeoning need.
Apigraf’s Pablo Durado and Fontina Lombardia for FESPA Hellas mirrored the same concerns albeit further exacerbated by the loss of tourism income which is massively important to both economies. Marrion Ferhat of FESPA France explained that with the exceptions already mentioned many printers are now shut and waiting on furlough payments from the government to support them until the worst of the crisis subsides.
We finally contributed our own position in the UK as a nation not yet at the peak of the crisis. With our FESPA UK Association offering support to its members, we can all share ideas through our network and look for assistance wherever we can find it.
During this week we have scheduled another six Zoom meetings to check in with the rest of our communities, to support each other, and to address what common tools can be employed in these straitened times.
Caption: Zoom conference call with our Polish and Slovakian Associations.
Whilst I appreciate the existential risks that businesses are facing and the priority to protect their longevity there are some things we can get on with whilst working at home. We will all return to a new ‘normal’ in the future still facing the climate emergency (despite the current economically punitive reduction in emissions) and brands will want more transparency and improved practices.
Maybe there is a chance to read up on the value of the UN Sustainable Development Goals for the printing community. Clare Taylor the respected UK based sustainability consultant is starting a series of articles covering the detail and has introduced the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Debbie McKeegan FESPA’s Textile Ambassador has just contributed an article on the Certification of digital textiles.
There are plenty of articles on FESPA.com and even more insightful content on the Club FESPA online members area. I’d also suggest a visit to Twosides.info will provide some useful information to mull over. Many suppliers will be offering online webinar content aswell, I’ve just signed up for Fogra’s free tasters at their web academy.
I know I join all of my colleagues at FESPA in wishing each and every one of you good health and a rapid return to business normality once the most crucial phase of containment is behind us.