Printer invests to ensure its growth continues

The directors of Watermill Press, from left, Sandra Carr, Ian Sharp and Dale Deacon
The directors of Watermill Press, from left, Sandra Carr, Ian Sharp and Dale Deacon
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A specialist label printing firm, which has seen growth of 40 per cent over the last two years, is looking to continue growing by investing in new machinery.

Bradford-based Watermill Press produces product identification labels, mainly for the food and drink sector. The firm will be taking delivery of a printing press and specialist finishing equipment later on this year.

Dale Deacon, managing director of Watermill, told The Yorkshire Post: “One of the main fundamentals that we’ve built the business on is we do invest and reinvest very heavily in the very latest technologies that are available in our industry.”

Watermill has seen turnover increase from £5.5m in 2013 to £7.5m in 2014. The new presses the company has bought were both built in Bridlington, a fact Watermill is proud of.

Mr Deacon said: “Our main criteria, obviously, is commercial. We want to buy the best equipment that we can for our business. We want to buy the best materials that we can for our business.

“It’s a very nice coincidence that actually we can source the best equipment in the world and it happens to be built in Yorkshire.”

Another fact that Watermill is very proud of is being accredited a living wage employer by the Living Wage Foundation.

Mr Deacon said that Watermill, which he established in 1994 with Ian Sharp and Sandra Carr – the two other directors, sees greater engagement, commitment and productivity from employees as a result.

Mr Deacon said that the living wage should be adopted on a much wider scale. He added: “Our experience has been, it’s a relatively small additional cost to the business but the benefits that we receive are many fold.

“Paying a living wage doesn’t detract from our profitability, it’s one of the fundamental reasons why we are profitable.”

Mr Deacon said that the reason why he and the other two directors were keen on paying above even the living wage was because they themselves were employees before setting up their own business. The three of them met while they were working at Technoprint, part of the Peter Black Group, in Keighley.

He said: “When you arrive at a point where you are wanting and needing to employ other people yourself, it’s really nothing more complicated than treating other people as you would hope to be treated yourself.

“On a more fundamental level, the fact that it’s 2015 and we’re still having a discussion as to whether somebody that’s working full-time should be paid a wage on which they can live is a little bit depressing in a sense.”

While the labelling industry has been clamouring for colour printing, Watermill has largely resisted the call. It concentrates instead on its specialism of producing labels with barcoding and product identification.

Mr Deacon said: “We do a very limited amount of colour work. Will we ever expand into full colour printers? No we won’t. We are specialists in the product range that we do. We know the product range very well, we’re extremely good at producing it and we’re very successful as a business as a result.

“If we were to go into full colour print, we would become just one of 500 other people.”

The firm takes its environmental responsibilties very seriously, and recently installed 750 solar panels.

Still plenty of scope for expansion

Watermill hopes to continue growing in its market. “The marketplace that we’re operating in is very, very large even in the UK,” said Mr Deacon.

He added: “We probably still only have a single digit market share of the potential business in the UK. We see no real constraints in growing the business two or three fold over the next five or ten years.”

One of the major concerns on the horizon for Watermill is the uncertainty over Britain’s membership of the EU, with much of its raw material coming from the eurozone. “We would like stability in our relationship with the EU,” said Mr Deacon.