‘Our bank is making repeated requests for information we’ve already supplied’
Clear Central Media is service sector company, providing printed material, typesetting services and data handling/processing for publishing companies. Most of its clients are in the magazine publishing business, ranging from international multi-media organisations to ‘one-man-band’ businesses.
This long-established business, once located in the heart of London’s print district in the Old Street/Clerkenwell areas, located in 2016 to bespoke premises in The Royal Docks, East London, close to London City Airport.
While its traditional business of typesetting has reduced substantially, Clear Central Media has innovated and diversified the products it can offer the publishing industry. It now employs 20 staff and has a turnover of £1.5m.
MD Mike Harrington told us how the company – which is utterly reliant on its technology working efficiently – has reacted to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We closed the office and invested in the necessary equipment to allow staff to work from home. We had to put seven staff on the furlough scheme from 1 April. The directors take it in turns to visit the office to keep key servers and services running. We have applied for a grant through the business support grant funding scheme. Also, we will need to defer VAT for the next quarter and possibly apply to HMRC for a PAYE payment delay.”
One source of frustration has been the company’s dealing with its bank. Harrington said: “We have applied to Metro Bank via our business manager for a [CBILS] support loan. Thus far the loan has not been approved and the response from the bank has been slow. They’ve made repeated requests for information we’ve already supplied.”
He added: “We have no debt other than a mortgage on our business premises, which is less than 60% loan to value – yet we are still finding it difficult to access a loan.”
He said the company’s staff – many of whom have been with it for a considerable number of years – are understanding of the situation, although are unsettled by it.
Looking to the future, Harrington is optimistic: “Our business doesn’t require many face-to-face interactions with our customers as most business can be conducted online. We hope that further distancing will not have a dramatic effect upon our business outlook. But we don’t expect lockdown restrictions to ease before June at best.”
So will the Covid-19 pandemic change the way Clear Central Media will operate going forward? Harrington said: “Yes. I feel we will now be more open to staff working from home. This will reduce travel time and assist social distancing by reducing use of public transport. Now we have made the investment in home working equipment and operated it successfully the option is more viable.”
One concern, though, is about the general state of the publishing sector. Harrington concluded: “Several publishers have suspended or closed publications, we are unsure if these publications will ever return. In addition, some have stopped producing a paper edition and moved to an online only product. Again, we are unsure if this move will be permanent.”