Stationery supplier Dodo Pad has challenged UK printers to find a way to print its products affordably in the UK, as it faces a fight for survival.
The Cornwall based company – a small business with a national and international customer base – has relied on overseas production of its diaries, wall calendars, planners and organisers for the past 15 years.
But according to managing director Rebecca Jay: “The huge drop in the value of the pound against the dollar brings Dodo Pad to a point in its 50-year history from which we can no longer recover, unless we can get production back in the UK and have some certainty of costs.
“If, as a country, we are ever to have a manufacturing base again, then this is the time to do it – in the new world of Brexit. Maybe it should be renamed ‘Brincome’.”
The company numbers Waterstones and WH Smith among its customers as well as many independent bricks-and-mortar and online retailers.
Rebecca continued: “While we already produce simpler stationery items locally in Cornwall and print costs (inks, paper, machine time) are not massively different here in the UK to China, the finishing costs are. And our biggest sellers need considerable ‘finishing’. This is what sent us to China in 2001, in order to develop and expand our product range affordably.”
She explained that Dodo Pad ‘rode’ the recession – just – and kept prices to end-users down as far as possible. “But at the same time we have been hit by massive online discounting through Amazon since 2008 and by some large retailers effectively ‘bullying’ small suppliers with unreasonable contractual demands.
“Now, the 20% drop from our budgeted £1/$1.50 to the present level is just too much to be affordable. It will push up our print bill by more than £15,000 based on today’s USD/GBP rate. That’s 14% of our turnover. I quote these figures only to illustrate the relative impacts: £15,000 is the salary for one of my key part-time staff.”
In May, Rebecca placed a forward dollar exchange rate trade ‘bet’ for Dodo Pad. The gamble paid off to assure this year’s production – but not that for 2017.
She said: “And so a much-loved British brand, which has been part of family life since 1966 – and which customers repeatedly tell us they couldn’t live without – might literally become extinct, because this is a storm that even we may not be able to weather.
“I don’t imagine we are alone. There are thousands of small businesses whose reliance on overseas manufacturing will be hit hard – possibly too hard to recover from. Is this what was anticipated by leaving the EU? I don’t think so.”
Dodo Pad is a member of the Giftware Association (GA). Sarah Ward, chief executive of the GA, commented: “We have heard how the falling pound has benefited our exporters. But Dodo Pad’s predicament brings into sharp focus the difficulties posed for many suppliers whose costs have risen on products they are having manufactured outside the UK.
“Hopefully, one of our members or someone in the wider industry will be able to assist Rebecca or offer advice that will help save this fine British company.
“Those supplier and retailer members who are similarly suffering may wish to let the GA know. A problem shared may not always be a problem halved, but many of our senior members have vast experience across the industry from which they could benefit.”