When Carl Brooks co-founded Kingfisher Design & Print in Knowsley in 2001 there was still not a full appreciation of how much the internet would turn the print world upside-down.
Back then, Facebook was still three years away and it would be another five years, in 2006, before the first Tweet was posted on Twitter. Newspapers, magazines, leaflets and newsletters were still being printed in their millions.
But like a tsunami, the world wide web and social media swept away so many of the printed products we had been taking for granted. Consequently, the print industry was hit hard and many printing firms did not survive this huge structural shift.
However, the death of print has been greatly exaggerated. According to trade association, the British Printing Industries Federation, the UK print industry is still the fifth largest in the world by volume of printed products. It is worth £14bn a year and provides employment for more than 100,000 people.
And it was the most entrepreneurial and adaptable businesses that rode the waves of change and adapted to the new demands of customers. Kingfisher Design & Print is one such business. It has not only survived the emergence of the digital revolution it also weathered the COVID storm despite seeing a loss in its revenues in 2020.
Today the business, working out of Knowsley Industrial Park, has a small but experienced and highly motivated team which comprises two designers, a printer, a marketing professional and, the latest member of the team, an experienced web designer, as it looks to offer both print and digital services.
At the head of the business is Kingfisher’s two directors – Carl Brooks and Carl Daly, who joined the firm five years ago. Carl Daly said: “Obviously the emergence of digital was a massive shift for our industry, but we also found there was still a demand for print products.
“What we look to do now is provide a comprehensive service – a one-stop-shop for everything. We can design your logo, we can do all of your printing, we can produce promotional products with your branding such as clothing, pens or mugs, and we are increasingly producing more signage.
“We also now have a member of the team who is very experienced in web design, social media and marketing. It means we can now handle the requirements of our customers both in print and online. It is the complete service and not many printing firms can offer that.
“Whether you’re looking for bespoke-designed large format graphics, promotional gifts, brochures, newsletters or simply renewing your business cards, we can do it with great service and a fast turnaround.”
As an example of how well Kingfisher has adapted to change, Carl says that about four years ago the business invested in new machinery that allowed it to do larger format printing for banners and other large products. It also acquired a matrix machine for things such as gold foiling on printed invitations.
The company enjoys a strong reputation within the Liverpool city region. It works with a number of secondary schools across Merseyside and also provides its services to Knowsley Council and blue-chip clients such as home shopping giant QVC, multinational power firm Clarke Energy and the University of Liverpool.
Carl Brooks told us, “At the start of the pandemic we initially had to shut down the business for three months. But we kept the business alive and made sure our staff were paid. When we emerged from that, things were initially slow to return. We got some work from hotels and pubs but so much was put on hold.
“But, as we have proved before, we are adaptable, and we are very good at reacting to what the market wants. I used the time to broaden my own skills as well. I trained as a business coach with the Liverpool Coaching Academy run by John Haynes. Last year John sadly passed, and it was a great loss to the Merseyside business community.”
In a further demonstration of how the business is prepared to adapt to changing times, Kingfisher is also making great strides towards decarbonising its operation as much as possible. Carl says this isn’t just about their own worldview, it is something that is increasingly being demanded by clients.
“Many companies now have targets around sustainability,” he added. “They have to demonstrate their own green credentials, and this becomes a major factor when they are purchasing goods and services from suppliers such as us.
“We are conforming to standards laid down by the Forest Stewardship Council which offers accreditations around sustainability. So, for example, we are making sure that all the paper and ink we use is recycled and that as many of our products as possible come from sustainable sources.
“Customers will ask for products that are sustainable and they will ask for proof of your sustainability credentials. We can offer that, and it is a part of our business that we are constantly looking to stay on top of.”
Kingfisher has repeatedly demonstrated its capacity to change with the times and it is this quality that gives Carl great optimism for the future of the business: “We have shown time and time again how we are resilient and how we can adapt.
“When l look at the people we have in our team I see a great deal of talent and experience. We have the capabilities to show we are one of the best businesses in our sector. We offer fantastic products and services and superb value – it is an all-round offer that gives our clients a great return on their investment.”