Blackmore is one of the UK’s leading green printers, based in Dorset, they first began trading in 1900, and although the business looks quite different today, they maintain the same high levels of commitment to both the environment and their customers.
Having won several awards for their environmental credentials, Blackmore are trusted by a broad range of clients, including large corporate companies and world-renowned charitable organisations, as well as local, small-scale businesses.
When the UK went into the first Covid-19 related lockdown in March 2020, Blackmore experienced the same reduction of work as the rest of the industry with several projects either being postponed or cancelled.
Andrew Robbins, managing director of Blackmore, shared that, “the impact of the pandemic was felt most severely during the first lockdown, as many of our customers paused to assess and adapt their own businesses to a very new and unique set of challenges. For us, our immediate response was to reduce overheads as far as possible and increase our working capital. We then took time to look at our business, talk to our customers and create 5-6 different contingency plans to address varying scenarios that we could be faced with.”
Blackmore quickly put into place measures to protect the business, using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to furlough some of its staff, enabling them to retain experienced and skilled people within the business for the long-term rather than making redundancies. They also took two Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) loans to increase their working capital. In addition, Blackmore were able to pivot the business to further support clients within the pharmaceutical sector, providing packaging and signage relating to the pandemic response.
Andrew commented, “It’s always been important to us to work across a range of sectors, so whilst we understandably saw a reduction of work coming in from the travel and hospitality sectors, we focussed our attention on growing markets, such as recyclable packaging and pharmaceuticals.”
Print and packaging businesses like Blackmore, often operate with relatively low margins, however, Blackmore have chosen to pursue higher margin work within the short run packaging sector, in a strategy to reduce turnover, whilst increasing profits. A key part of this strategy is the automation of workflows, with more efficient machinery and processes. Blackmore have utilised CBILS extensively to refinance their existing assets and to invest heavily in new equipment, whilst keeping their monthly repayments fairly static.
In explaining the approach that they took to reviewing the business, Andrew said, “we looked at where we wanted to drive the business, focussing primarily on: our marketing, opportunities for developing existing markets, our technologies, and the areas in which we could drive further efficiencies. Covid enabled us to speed up and implement existing plans, utilising CBILS to invest in new equipment, whilst also furthering our environmental goals of reducing energy consumption and waste .”
Whilst the new investments enable Blackmore to produce their existing products more efficiently, the increased functionality is also helping to facilitate the diversification of their services into new markets. Blackmore are also now looking at opportunities for mergers and acquisitions to accelerate this growth.
Following on from his predecessors, Andrew has worked directly with David Bunker, a director of Compass Business Finance for over a decade, he said, “As a business, we’ve always had a very strong relationship with David, he’s in regular contact with us, makes sure that he has a thorough understanding of our business, and presents us with a range of ideas to meet our funding requirements. In addition, he always keeps things relatively straight-forward and simple – I certainly wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Compass.”