The Cold. Hard. Facts.
This time last year many wondered if it would be premature to write off the printing industry as a casualty of the economy. The numbers proved that would have been the case. Would the same truth hold for 2009? Yes.
Total annual sales figures for the top 100 manufacturers slightly surpassed last year’s reported $3.05 billion, reaching $3.15 billion for the last fiscal year completed. Despite this impressive showing, the majority of participating suppliers did acknowledge their decision or need to lay off some employees in 2008 and 2009. On a more positive note, however, most did not anticipate this course of action for the upcoming business year.
Individual product sectors proved to be a mixed bag. On one hand, several categories were on the rise. For instance, labels and tags sales were up at $585.5 million (2008: $567.6 million) and direct mail sales reached $108.7 million (2008: $89.9 million).
Categories including digital print and e-commerce saw improvements far from modest—perhaps a strong indicator of the industry’s direction. This year, digital print achieved $90.1 million (2008: $43.6 million), while e-commerce climbed up to $37.2 million (2008: $9.2 million).
Printed forms reinforced both their value and presence in the industry, putting forth the highest numbers. Not quite where they were in 2007 at $931 million, business forms still managed to top last year’s results of $813.4 million, landing in at $901.2 million.
Then, there were product categories that took a hit. Promotional products figures decreased this year, averaging at $105.1 million (2008: $126.1 million); commercial print comprised $339.2 million of sales (2008: $387.7 million); and plastic products resulted at $113.6 million (2008: $116.9 million).
The “other” category took a dramatic tumble down to $472.5 million (2008: $724.8 million). But the discrepancy can be easily explained. This year, the Print Professional staff made some minor edits to the forms turned in by participants. One of these changes included making “envelopes” its own category, and envelopes were traditionally the number-one product sold under the “other” category. Now standing alone, envelope sales finished big with $327.7 million. With envelopes no longer an option for the “other” category, common responses for this sector were office products, roll products, warehousing/fulfillment, database services, cut sheets, CDs/DVDs, looseleaf products, bindery/finishing and digital barcodes. It is important to note that some of these entries may further skew the “other” category because the decision to consider cut sheets as something miscellaneous instead of a form product, for example, boils down to the opinion of the manufacturer.
Related story: A View From the Top