Mike Gee, Managing Director of leading independent paper merchant group, Denmaur Independent Papers, has been appointed as the new President of the National Association of Paper Merchants (NAPM).
Mike celebrated his new appointment by giving his first speech in his new capacity at the NAPM's recently held Annual Dinner in London, where he welcomed guests including speaker Berry Wiersum of Sappi and Norman Croucher, who told of his exploits climbing a number of Himalayan peaks over 15,000 feet despite having artificial legs.
Other guests on the night included David Workman, the new Director General of the Confederation of Paper industries and Richard Brewster, the Master of the Stationers' Company.
New NAPM members were also introduced, with Gerald Judd Sales and Middleton Papers, both becoming full members of the NAPM for 2010.
Mike told tale of his career, which celebrated its 40th anniversary within a few days of the date of the dinner, and the colourful characters he had come across. He also extended a message to the more youthful fraternity of the membership, stating: "For the younger people – and new entrants here tonight, my message is 'Whatever you desire is possible'. To succeed you will need ambition, stamina, passion, knowledge and most likely an understanding partner to assist you."
Mike then went on to give some alarming industry statistics for those gathered."Sales for the merchant industry have, on a consistent basis, reduced in 2009 volume terms (tonnes) by 9.2% against those in 2008 and in value terms by 4.9% against 2008. In terms of average pricing, the average pricing of products sold through merchants was almost identical between December 2008 and December 2009, with an average price difference of only 29p per tonne. Average prices have risen since December but ironically are only approximately £2.50 per tonne more than in February 2009, showing that prices did rise in 2009 and then dropped back significantly."
He continued, "If we look at our pricing index historically on a like for like base, with October 2003 being the benchmark at 100, 2010 was only 102.4, a rise of 2.4% over 7 years. Whereas the retail price index has risen from 178.4 to 217.9, a gain of 22.14%.Another area which showed further deterioration is in reported bad debts. If we look at the figures over the last 3 years, they make scary reading –
2007 was £9.3m
2008 was £14.5m
2009 reported to date is £17.5m
If we look cumulatively at the figures since 2003, for the last seven years, we see a total problem of some £89m - not a small figure, in any book. This has led the few remaining credit insurers to toughen their stance and, in many cases, significantly increase their premium rate, or refuse cover. The underwhelming combination of reduced sales and increased bad debts has meant that many paper merchant companies are showing, at the best, results which are not satisfactory, particularly in relation to profitability."
However it was not all doom and gloom, with Mike indicating there are some green shoots appearing, with bad debt levelling off and significant rising demand in other parts of the world, such as Asia and China, which unfortunately does not impact on the UK trade.
Mike also spoke of how the NAPM, together with TwoSides and CepiFine's "PrintPower" project were working together to improve the consumer's insight into the industry, to underline that it is a truly sustainable and environmentally friendly medium. He also paid tribute to his fellow staff members at Denmaur Independent for their support, along with that of the NAPM's Policy Group members since Mike became President-elect, and also NAPM Treasurer Tim Elliott, and NAPM Director Tim Bowler, who organised and co-ordinated the Annual Dinner.