The Biggest Surprises of 2018

Five print experts share the most significant eye-openers of the year.

We asked 10 of Big Picture's Editorial Advisory Board members to address the current state of the wide-format industry and reveal what we should expect in 2019.

What surprised you the most in 2018?

Kirk Green, president/CEO, Ferrari Color: The biggest surprise for Ferrari Color and has been the transformation taking place in the retail industry. Many of the old-line businesses have been reduced to shells, yet newcomers are rearranging the way retail businesses operate. We have needed nimbleness to keep providing the products and services these companies require.

Stan Lucas, business development manager, wide format,
: Challenges associated with the introduction of wide format into a conventional offset/litho print house. Growth has been good and steady, but there are unique bridges to cross that one might not normally see in a “wide-format-only” house. We’ve acquired quite a bit of “low hanging fruit” from our offset customers that required very little sales work because we were already a trusted vendor. Simply adding wide format broadened the conversation between our sales team and their customers.

Elaine Scrima VP of operations, GSP Companies: This is the first time ever sales were basically flat from the previous year. There’s a continued amount of pressure to reduce unit price. Because 85 percent of our clients are on contracts, we’re challenged with price reductions during contract renewal in order to keep the business. Given the material price increases we’ve seen recently and the impact of the US-imposed tariffs with China, we’ve seen our margins continue to take a hit. We continue to look for ways (equipment and processes) to improve throughput. I wouldn’t say you ever overcome it, but you find ways to manage through it.

Brian Adam, president/owner, Olympus Group: Heading into 2018, we didn’t envision tariffs and the impact they’ve had on costs and prices. We’ve been operating in a world of fairly flat prices and costs for the last 10 years but with wage inflation and the tariffs, it has pushed costs up. While, historically, it’s been extremely challenging to push across any price increase, I believe the tariffs created a condition where customers are more accepting of a price increase.

Ryan Clark, president, Direct Edge Media: I would like to say that our continued success was perfectly planned, but it’s a little surprising that we just keep going and can’t get ahead of the game. We try to expand and hire more people, and it seems like an endless task. If we slow down, then it feels like we’ll be quickly put out of business by the competition. So, maybe the surprise is that it never gets easier. This might be a product of the high-stress Southern California lifestyle, but probably the same feeling of anyone owning a shop with more than 100 employees. 

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