Mr. Timothy R. Bowler
Orchard House
39a Burlington Road
tel. +44 115 9609595

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Papermerchanting in the United Kingdom in 2012


2012 was yet another very difficult year in the paper merchanting sector as total tonnage volumes of printings and writings paper sold to an ever contracting UK printing industry continued to decline. Total volume tonnes sold in 2012 decreased by 5.4% on 2011, following on from a decrease of 9.3% the previous year, 5.2% decrease in 2010 and 9.2% decrease in 2009. Total volume tonnes in 2012 were consequently 26.2% down on tonnage levels achieved in 2008 prior to the start of the recession. Thankfully 2012 did show a lesser percentage decline in total volume tonnes than in 2011 and 2009.

Total value of printings and writings paper sold through the merchant channel in 2012 was 8.4% down on the previous year with average prices at the end of 2012 showing as 5.7% down on the end of the previous year.

The total tonnage volume of sheets in 2012 fell by 5.3% compared to 11.4% in the previous year with the total tonnage volume of reels falling by 5.7% compared to a 4.7% drop the previous year. The sales of reels in the UK therefore remained constant at 33.0% from the previous year of all tonnes sold by merchants in the UK following a 2.0% reduction in 2010.

Woodfree coated qualities in 2012 saw another dramatic annual reduction in overall tonnage volumes of 12.7% following on from 12.0% the previous year. Sheets fell by 11.1% in 2012 which was less than the previous year's fall of 13.0% and reels by 15.8%, being much greater than the previous year's fall of 10.2%. Woodfree coated qualities now account for 47.4% of the total UK market.

The sales of cut-size papers through the merchant channel in 2012 surprisingly showed an increase of 3.3% in total volume tonnes on the previous year having shown a fall in tonnes of 11.1% the previous year. The increase in total tonnes sold however was not matched by an increase in total value of sales as this figure fell by 2.5% on the previous year. The amount of cut size papers sold by merchants from stock in the UK continued to rise to 62.1% of the total sold.

Woodfree uncoated qualities again had a better-than-average year with total tonnage volumes falling by only 4.5% compared to 5.4% the previous year.

The NAPM Boards Division, which now represents some 13 member companies, saw total volume tonnes sold by them of graphic and packaging boards for 2012 fall by only 8.4% compared to a figure of 19.6% the year before.

During 2012 the NAPM continued to produce "Snapshot Statistics" for both the paper and board statistics which are circulated to all NAPM members just after the first week after the month end showing a simple percentage, up or down, for just total volume tonnes against the same month the previous year. These "snapshots" are eagerly awaited every month to show the current state of the market

The failure rate of companies in the UK printing industry continues to be the main concern of members of the NAPM with bad debts running at about the same level in 2012 as 2011, the total of bad debts incurred in 2011 was well down on 2010.

The NAPM continues to play a very full and active role within its own as well as related industry sectors and is widely regarded as the only body representing the paper merchanting industry in the UK. During 2012 several meeting took place with other trade bodies in the UK representing the broad industry sector of the paper, printing and media industries to ensure that the voices of our respective industries are heard and recognised at government and national level as the overall sector continues to decline.

During 2012 the NAPM continued to engage with the British Printing Industries Federation at the highest level with regular liaison meetings held with their "Paper Committee" and also decided to stage a joint forum in September 2012 in London. At this forum the BPIF & NAPM jointly launched a discussion document entitled "Optimising Paper Supply Chain Management" which investigated how both printers and merchants could possibly join together to take costs out of the supply chain.