Following a successful 2019 merger, Sheffield-based printing firm Northend have gone from strength to strength as a company – and they’ve got the stats to prove it! unLTD’s Sasha Mossman spoke to Managing Director Nigel Stubley to find out more.
Tell me a bit about the business.
Northend was established in 1889 – the same year as Sheffield United! – and gradually began to make waves in Sheffield as a commercial printing business for customers in and around the city. I joined the business back in 1996 with an extensive background in sales and marketing and fresh food production.
Back then I didn’t know much at all about printing – but most of what I’d done before involved prioritising the customer and putting them at the forefront of everything we do. So that’s what we set about doing here – and we’ve managed to do this successfully for the past two decades.
How has it developed over the years?
Essentially, Northend has moved on from its beginnings as a lithographic printing company, to a full-service print house with a wide offering including design, production management, fulfilment. We do this across all formats – from digital to litho and wide format.
Being a long-standing firm, we’ve seen plenty of growth over the years – but the most significant development in recent years has certainly been the merger. It was initially apparent that – being the size we were – we’d need to make significant organic growth. We then did some succession planning and started looking out for partners in 2018. I was delighted to eventually find My Print Partners (great name!) and we merged the businesses together to work from the historic Northend site in April 2019.
What particular projects, products, or services have been particularly successful?
We embraced digital print technology in 2004, and there’s been a continual move over these 15 years to using more and more digital personalised prints, as that’s what customers want.
Digital printing has been an enabler in that, without it, you couldn’t make the move to produced personalised 1-1 marketing communications. Digital printing has been the facilitator to allow marketeers to get a much more personalised message to their audience. Traditionally, it was the done thing to print and door-drop 50,000 leaflets – whereas now, we can produce an email that could go to 50,000 people, and then 250 personalised print pieces which would go to key targets.
In 2009, on the back of that move to digital work, we added picking and packing and fulfilment. This allows us to produce digital one-offs, but at the same time we can accept that there are some things you can produce 3-4 times a year and then put them to one side for customer to call off as and when they want them, rather than having to hold a year’s worth of stock just to get the unit price down.
Also, around six years ago we added wide formats which meant we could produce products including signage, pop-up banners, outdoor signs and banners, exhibition panels.
So much has changed over last 15 years!
What are the key milestone achievements in recent years?
The merger has allowed us much critical mass. Before we merged, we had a £3.5million turnover. Since we’ve merged, we’re now in excess of £5million. This has allowed us to upgrade our equipment – particularly in finishing. For instance, we couldn’t have justified the new stitching line we installed in December on the smaller turnover.
What sort of feedback do you get from staff about the company culture and environment of the workplace?
Following the merger – very positive. The integration of our two teams has been seamless and I think the fact we’ve had zero staff turnover since we did the merger says it all. Historically, our turnover has been low anyway, but we haven’t lost any staff since April 2019.
We also have annual job reviews to ensure our staff are satisfied in their job roles and with the workplace culture – this also produces great results.
What are your plans for the future to drive further success?
In terms of going forward, we’re looking at more projects to increase efficiency – this is a priority for us as a business.
Strategically, we’re looking at further add-on services – we’d like to start something from scratch, buy the equipment and start the training. We’re also looking at acquisitions so that, as Northend, we can extend our offerings. We’d sell those services to both our existing and growing new customer base.
We’ve had consistently positive feedback from customers and we’re constantly gaining more market share from that. We have customers all over the country – but we could never ignore that we’re a part of the vibrant, creative services industry in Sheffield.