Who says it’s all doom and gloom? Did you know that Paints and Varnishes sit top of the pile when it comes to exports of construction materials? According to information from the Office of National Statistics, Paint and Varnishes maintained 1st place in the league table of construction exports in 2012, and opened up a significant gap on our nearest rivals, which are Electrical Wiring and Structural Steel units. Paint & Varnish export sales were £630m for the 12 months to Q3 2012, 1% up on 2011, which itself was an impressive 13% up on 2010. We were in 3rd place back in 2006-8, 2nd place in 2009 but took top spot in 2010. Exporting is certainly a Coatings Industry strength, especially when you compare our 1% growth to the overall fall of 7% in total construction product exports in 2012. Did you know we export 30% of the paint made in the UK, and that 3 out of every 4 cans of paint sold in the UK were made here? That makes us a net exporter of coatings. We have put a press release out on all this as it’s something we should be proud of!
Coming back to reality somewhat, the second half of 2012 was tough for the paint industry – after 7 quarters of consecutive and impressive (5 to 7%) value growth we moved into a double dip with two quarters of negative growth (-0.5% to -1%). This should be looked at in the context of overall manufacturing output being down 1.5% in Q4 2012. The trend is of course concerning but I think a reflection on the general lack of confidence consumers have, combined with reduced public sector projects and the difficult housing market. However, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel at least for the DIY and gardening retail sector, which are set to grow by 3.3%, according to a report in DIY Week, making it the strongest category for projected growth in the retail sector (total retail is forecast to grow 1.8%). We hope for better weather in 2013 as although 2012 was a glorious year for sport (Champions League final the obvious highlight surely?!) it was a miserable year for those selling masonry and woodcare products.
January started for me with a trip to visit Leeds University, and Leeds Metropolitan University. Building bridges to higher education is certainly something the BCF is keen to do, and Leeds University in particular has an excellent MSc in Polymers, Colorants and Fine Chemicals which we will be promoting on the new BCF training website which hopefully will be launched by the middle of 2013. A link to the MSc can be found here
Talking of graduates, I can announce that the BCF has taken on a graduate to help support bringing some marketing and PR activities in house – at first Charlotte Webb will be on a 12 week internship, with the option to extend this depending on board approval in February. I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing her good luck during her placement with us.
Karen and I also visited Crown Paints to discuss progress with our apprenticeship programme. Crown have lead the way, having 6 of the 8 apprentices on our new Coatings apprenticeship. It’s fair to say we are still fine tuning the programme, but made good progress in the meeting and we would be keen to talk to any members who are considering taking on an apprentice. Please contact Karen for more details at Karen.Traies@bcf.co.uk
Whilst in Leeds we visited Faraday Centre for Retail Excellence , based in Leeds Metropolitan University, who are at the forefront of packaging technology and are showing how the combination of printing inks and electronics can create some very innovative packing and point of sale ideas. More of this at our annual conference, taking place on May 16thin Manchester, where Andrew Revel from Faraday will be one of our speakers.
Talking of printing inks, I visited Fujifilm in Kent this month, and was very impressed with their operation. Broadstairs is a major manufacturing site for Fujifilm inks, and they have made significant investment in a new digital print production facility.
Did any of you see the really interesting article in the Sunday Times this month on e-readers? Apparently sales growth of e-readers in 2012 was only 16% compared to 366% in 2011, and only 14% of total book sales in the UK are electronic. A recent survey in America reported 90% of people with e-readers still reading printed books as well, and Christmas sales of printed books in the UK were up for the first time in 3 years. Earlier in 2012 we had the phenomenon (I have another word for it) that was 50 Shades of Grey which was overwhelming bought in print rather than electronically. All this is some welcome news for the publishing side of printing inks which have been under pressure.
This month I’ve also visited the Little Greene Paint Company in Manchester, who are growing in the high value segment of the independent decorative market. I met with Peter Davys to discuss Surfex 2014. I also had meetings with several other trade associations – Construction Products Association, Packaging and Films Association and several Print related associations. On the training side I’ve met with Proskills and Cogent to discuss a potential bid into a fund to help further develop our apprenticeship programme, and John Falder (HMG Paints) kindly represented us at a government launch event on this subject.
At the end of the month I attended the Coatings Summit in Brussels, and met some senior people from several of our member companies.
All in all a busy but exciting start to the year!