Five industry experts scope out the year ahead.
Marx: We see a new kind of blurring of the boundaries in our industry, as companies inside and outside our industry seek to increase their revenue flow and keep the customers they have. More and more commercial printing companies are viewing wide-format devices as much more than “proofers”—they are investigating what wide format can do for them and how they can sell “packaged” solutions to their customers. On the flipside, we’re also seeing companies such as t-shirt shops making small capital investments (generally solvent inkjet) to allow them the ability to print signs and banners, or do vehicle graphics, for their customers. They see it as a valuable add-on to their core business, which has been shrinking of late.
Florek: The most notable trend we’ve seen is the further migration of services in-house. To compete for customers, print service providers have, by necessity, become one-stop shops for customers. Perhaps the most interesting development has been the increasing number of shops to offer consulting to their customers on areas such as placement and marketing. To get ahead, these companies no longer market themselves as “printers” per se, but instead as printing companies that offer solutions. In general, the downturn has accelerated the diversification of services that shops offer. To grow and even to survive, companies must reach beyond their traditional business. Hence, we’re seeing reprographers and photo labs entering the graphics business and commercial printers embracing digital technology.
Williams: One example is printing on fabric for signage and non-signage applications. I recently heard of one company that is printing linen banners for a cosmetics company. Some companies, such as The Art Dept., Inc. in Mount Holly, New Jersey (www.customprintedfabric.com) have figured out how to directly reach the consumer, creating incremental growth for their business and the market in general. We need more—and we will see more—of these types of applications.
We’ve seen a relatively calm year when it comes to new technologies being introduced to the marketplace, would you agree?