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Economic Rebound Won't Revive Lagging Print Sales

(July 2003) posted on Tue Jul 01, 2003

According to TWGA analysis of 8 years of data


Printing companies who expect a turnaround in the economy to reverse lagging sales may need to rethink their strategies. According to an analysis of eight years of statistics gathered by TrendWatch Graphic Arts, an economic rebound is unlikely to reverse the fortunes of struggling printing businesses (and the vendors who sell to them). Instead, TWGA suggest business owners need to revise their business models to reflect the changing needs of the today's business environment.

The title of the TWGA report sums it up nicely: "Why You Can't Wait This One Out: Eight Years of TWGA Printing Data Tells Why 'Normal' Is Gone Forever." The 100+-page report was compiled from TWGA's printing historical database, which contains data from all 17 TWGA surveys conducted over the past 8 years.

The most dramatic statistic is the fact that the percentage of respondents reporting business conditions as excellent dropped from 47% in Q2 1995 to 16% in Q2 2003. In the most recently reported numbers, only 14% regard "adding printing capabilities" as a sales opportunity.

Other observations from TWGA's 100+ page analysis include the following:


Concern about "increasing plant productivity" is declining. Suppliers trying to sell equipment on the basis of incremental productivity improvements should rethink their messages.


Concern about "keeping up with technological change" is also on the decline. Many shops no longer believe they have to acquire the latest and greatest equipments in order to be competitive.


Prepress-related processes such as preflighting, working with PC files, and PDF workflow are declining as "challenges," giving rise to opportunities to develop new services.


In terms of increasing sales, printing companies seem to be seeking lower-overhead options. Fewer respondents are concerned about increasing sales personnel, while more are interested in working with print brokers and partnering with other graphic-arts firms.


Large-format printers are one of the bright spots, with a steadily growing number of printing firms reporting plans to acquire such equipment.

"With eight years of data, you begin to see very obvious trends," notes Vince Naselli, director, TrendWatch Graphic Arts. "The trends we analyzed in the report tend to be very consistent in terms of either upward or downward slopes, given the predictable spikes from technology or economic change. While some may see this report as 'doom and gloom,' it's our hope that most will see this as a sharp and reliable indication that it's time to review business plans."

The report sells for $1595 and can be downloaded in PDF format from TWGA's online store. (TrendWatchGraphic Arts: www.trendwatchgraphicarts.com)


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