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A positive mood in print

May 16, 2018  By Jon Robinson

At the end of April, Messe Düsseldorf released its 5th drupa Global Trends Report, based on a survey of approximately 1,000 senior managers across the printing world. Specifically, this includes 708 printers with the majority from Europe, 421, and rest of the world represented in all regions by 287 respondents. On the supplier side there were 234 participants, of which 160 reported on Europe.

The survey was run by Printfuture of the UK and Wissler & Partner of Switzerland. The report’s authors and drupa organizers both concluded this is the most encouraging report since the annual survey was first published in 2013. drupa explains it reflects a positive mood in the overall printing industry, illustrating a slow but steady global economic recovery from the 2008 recession.

“Both printers and suppliers clearly understand the strategic challenges that print faces. However, there is increasing confidence in a strong future for printers in most markets and regions, as long as they analyze their target markets carefully and make suitable innovations to meet the future needs of their clients’ customers,” concluded Richard Gray, Operations Director at Printfuture.

The drupa Trends Report also found that suppliers from the majority of market sectors reported growing confidence in their company’s economic performance. The survey results show there is a surge in sales of core equipment/software/materials, with a +29 percent net balance over previous years, explains drupa, as all supplier revenue streams showed their best ever net positive balance.

Packaging remains the most buoyant market, according to the report, and there has been a steady improvement in confidence over the past five years amongst commercial printers and functional printers. Publishing printers, according to the report, face the most challenging strategic changes and there is a decline in assurance this year, despite a reduced threat from e-books.

In the report’s Printer Barometer for economic confidence, as it relates to the past five years, from when the report started in 2013, North American participants scored the highest percentage positive net balance among all other regions. Survey participants were asked, “How do you rate the current economic situation of your company and what are your expectations of your company’s economic situation for the next 12 months?”

In 2017, 40 percent of all printers surveyed described their company as in a ‘good’ economic state and nine percent described it as ‘poor’ (the balance answered ‘satisfactory’). This gives a positive net balance of 31 percent and it is that net balance (plus or minus) that makes up the Printer Barometer numbers.

North American printers were at more than a +45 percent actual for economic confidence in 2017, while the region’s 2018 forecast was at +78 percent. Europe was second in economic confidence at around 38 percent for 2017 actual, followed by South and Central America at around 24 percent.
Very interesting statistics emerged from the report’s survey of key financial measures for printers, particularly around revenues and prices. Approximately 44 percent of surveyed printers reported their revenues increased and 20 percent reported that their revenues had declined. These statistics buck common wisdom when considering that only 20 percent reported an increase in prices for their print, and 30 percent reported a decrease in prices. Margins also dropped significantly with 38 percent of printers reporting a decrease and only 20 percent reporting an increase in margins.

Clearly, a key driver to the significant increase in revenues, again with 44 percent reporting a rise, is a result of major cost cutting taking place at printing operations around the world. The report found that 46 percent of surveyed printers saw an increase in utilization while only 19 percent found a decrease in utilization.

On the supplier side, revenues also increased according to 48 percent of respondents, with 14 percent reporting a decrease in revenues. In terms of prices, 21 percent saw an increase and 27 percent of suppliers saw a decrease, while margins rose for 13 percent of surveyed suppliers and 33 of these respondents saw a decrease in margins.

Globally, 33 percent more printers reported an increase in capital expenditure than those reporting a fall, with North America most positive at +51 percent and Australia/Oceania the lowest region at +18 percent. Packaging printers reported the biggest positive net balance at +45 percent, functional at +42 percent, commercial at +30 percent and publishing at +20 percent. Finishing is the most popular focus for investment for the second year running, followed by print technology and then prepress/workflow/MIS. Web-to-print was still relatively weak, which speaks to potential increased utilization in the future.

This editorial was originally published in the May 2018 issue of PrintAction, now available online.

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