Foreseeing a Road to Success: Industry Roundtable, Day 1

Industry experts analyze 2012 and project where the market will be in 2013.

Big Picture

In the late 1700s, Swiss clergyman Antoine Court de Gébelin wrote that the symbols on the first printed Tarot cards represented the Egyptian deities of Isis and Thoth, and that the name “tarot” actually was derived from the Egyptian words “tar” (meaning “royal”) and “ro” ( “road”) – hence, the Tarot represented a “royal road” to wisdom and success. Later scholars scoffed at Gébelin’s claims, but the die was cast: Since then, mystics the world over have been using Tarot cards as a way to divine the future.

Now, standard Tarot card symbols include wands, pentacles, swords, and cups – but we’ve come across no such cards featuring any printer icons. All of which seems to indicate that the business of wide-format printing is much more about free will and bold entrepreneurial spirit rather than some mystical mix of divination and chance. And achieving success in this industry is the result of good planning and solid work – not garnered from forces outside your control. In short, a reading of your tarot cards probably is not going to help you foresee your shop’s road to success.

We can, however, help you map out your shop’s game plan for the year ahead. We’ve assembled four of the industry’s most informed analysts and consultants and asked them to help you “divine” the marketplace: Where does it stand now, and where will it be in 2013? And, importantly, what courses of action do you need to take to help ensure your company’s success?

For this year’s edition of our annual Industry Roundtable, our participants include: Marco Boer, vice president, I.T. Strategies; Tim Greene, director, wide format consulting service, InfoTrends; Dan Marx, VP, markets & technologies, SGIA; and Peter Mayhew, director, LightWords Ltd.


BPIC: Gents, let’s get right to it: What do the next 12 months look like for print providers? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about how the year will treat wide format? And since so many of you liked our movie-title question last year: What film title best describes what’s ahead for print providers in 2013?

Dan Marx, SGIA: Although the US economy has been lagging, and employment has been flat, our surveys show that wide-format producers are, by and large, quite optimistic about the current state of the industry and for the year ahead. In fact, as a group, they show an expected annual growth rate of 12.6 percent. Indicators on production, sales, and equipment purchase continue to be strong, even if the economy outside our walls is kind of “blah.” As for a movie title, I’d look to the number of big companies acquiring smaller companies and propose, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Tim Greene, InfoTrends: Our research indicates that there are some positive signs, but that, like last year, visibility is low in the long term. People that answered our survey early in 2012 reported an average growth expectation of around 14 percent, but since then I think the economic troubles in Europe, poor retail activity numbers, and maybe even the US election has become more of a distraction. I’m optimistic for a better pace of business through the second half of this year. For film titles for 2013, I will say The Quick and the Dead. By that I mean companies that serve customers the best, companies that add new capabilities and can effectively sell those capabilities, and the companies that find and establish themselves within those profitable niches and profitable services the fastest will ultimately have a big advantage over their competitors.

Peter Mayhew, LightWords Ltd: I’m optimistic for the wide-format industry this year. The message has been heard loud and clear that effective and measurable marketing is essential to survival through this recession. This means there’s a key role for the wide-format print service provider who offers differentiated and compelling products and services. As for film titles, as the regulations begin to gather, state by state, for digital billboards and signage, how about, A Man for All Seasons, with the line often used in US court opinion: “I know what’s legal, not what’s right. And I’ll stick to what’s legal.”

Marco Boer, I.T. Strategies: The next 12 months are all about taking risks on innovation. We’re in a state-of-the-industry life cycle where mainstream print volumes are heading downward, often both in volume and price per square foot. Shops need to take advantage of high-margin, fast growing specialties – soft signage, digitally printed promotional goods like smartphone cover cases, and applications that can often put one in uncomfortable, unchartered territory. Note that the investment in entering these applications extends well beyond the new hardware that’s required; in fact, the biggest cost is probably in the learning curve on how to most efficiently sell these new applications.

Next up in Part 2 of our 2012 Industry Roundtable: Acquisitions and Megers....

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