STATE OF THE INDUSTRY: Your 2015 Forecast
The struggle is real for small and mid-size printers facing hungry conglomerates and shifting consumer habits. They've put up a good fight so far, striking quickly with multichannel strategies and service-based models, but there's one battle where they always fall short-and not surprisingly so. How do you go up against a faceless adversary that doesn't follow the rules? In other words, how do you defeat—or even coexist with—the economy?
The U.S. economy has always been prone to mood swings and last year was no exception. Just ask Dr. Ronnie Davis, senior vice president and chief economist for the Printing Industries of America (PIA), Warrendale, Pa. There were a lot of ups and downs over the course of 2014, according to "Industry Briefing: Competing in Print's Dynamic Marketspace in 2015," a report prepared by Davis and his Center for Print Economics and Market Research. As mentioned in the study, there was "a negative first quarter followed by strong growth in the second quarter and more modest growth in the third." Davis explained that for the full year, growth should total around 2 percent, which he referred to as "weak" for a normal recovery phase.
But there's plenty of good news to go around. In addition to more than 45,000 establishments and 900,000-plus employees, PIA measured over $155 billion in estimated shipments last year, highlighting the industry's large economic footprint. "Currently, the printing industry is fairly healthy overall with slightly increasing sales," Davis said. "This pace generally matches my expectations from last year as I expected a modest improvement in the economy and print."
Over the years, Davis has observed a connection between print's function and the direction of sales change. For tracking purposes, PIA divides print into three functions. The first function is print that "informs and communicates" and includes magazines and periodicals, newspapers, books, financial and legal, business forms and greeting cards. "Product logistics," the second function, refers to converters, labels and wrappers, along with package printing. The remaining function "markets and promotes." General commercial printing, quick printers, direct mail and signs/signage are a part of this category. Davis is particularly optimistic about digital and ink-jet processes, packaging and labels/wrappers, and marketing-related print. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for print that informs and communicates, which he calls a "cold market."