Special Report: State of the Industry

In my predictions for the year 2009 I noted: “There seem to be two different opinions on the best way to weather the trying times ahead. One is to hunker down, save your cash, and pull in your horns. That might be a viable option if you actually have the cash to survive. Unfortunately, many do not because they have not been following the basics of business and balance sheets.”The next year I opined: “In 2010 we will see sales rebound slightly for the industry and grow even more for those quick and small commercial printers who have recognized the systemic industry changes and planned for the economic recovery.”

This year, I think I’ll let the folks who are in the trenches share their take on what’s in store for 2011.

Carl Gerhardt, president & CEO, Allegra Network: “NAPL is predicting 1-3% growth for 2011. Usually, Andy [Paparozzi, NAPL’s chief economist] is pretty close. This is basically flat in real dollar terms. On average, this is about all the industry can expect. That said, we are seeing some excelling growth with those franchise members in Allegra Network who are embracing the new world of selling marketing solutions. It is not easy and requires the backup support from our Marketing Resource Center, but this gives a lot of optimism for those centers willing to change the focus of their business from chasing commodity print orders.

Still some others are getting a smaller piece of a smaller pie. As consolidation continues, there will be opportunities to acquire some business. We have done well over 250 acquisitions of independents for our existing centers…so there are some excellent opportunities to be optimistic. But there will not be a rising tide to lift all boats and you will need to adjust your sails if you want to get out of still H20.”

Tommy Melendez, owner of Copy That, New York, NY: “There will be growth for many. The new economy has opened many eyes on how to grow in these hard times. Plenty of printers are upgrading and improving their workflow. These improvements will help to produce more work efficiently and increase sales.

I look forward to next year—2008 was good, 2009 was better, and 2010 has been our best. I truly believe a strong and aggressive marketing campaign, a great product, and first class service will provide any business with growth. If you fall into a price battle against your competitors or the Internet, you might as well close up shop now! Be wise and maintain a marketing campaign and raise your prices. As old friend John Stewart says, ‘Work smarter, not harder.’”

John Giles, QP columnist and prepress technology consultant: “It isn’t going to be pretty for a lot of print owners, especially if they haven’t been managing their own businesses, keeping on top of the financials, or out in front of customers actively selling. Printers are going to have to become more Internet savvy and start treating the new communication tools as another way to reproduce and distribute documents.

2011 is going to be a really tough year for some printers and a great year for others. The long recession is putting pressure on the cash position of many small printing companies. Combine this with the fact that offset impressions are continuing to drop and you can expect a number of small printing companies to close their doors in the next 12 months. Prices will continue to be slashed for commodity types of printing as some printers attempt to keep their doors open. The traditional walk-in print shops will find it hard to compete since they don’t have the money to automate their workflows or the time to get out and sell something.

But 2011 will bring opportunity to printers who have been taking action in their shops over the last 24 months. Printers will see success if they can sell services to help their customers manage their message, brand, and content. This managed marketing will go beyond printing and integrate the new communication tools offered by the Internet. I see successful printers not only printing on paper, but helping customers push their message using the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Just adding “marketing” to your company’s name won’t insure success. Successful printing companies will have to demonstrate with their own company’s marketing efforts that they understand the new marketing vehicles.”

Mitch Evans, QP columnist and business consultant: “There will be an acceleration of work going to digital from offset. The number of printers will continue to decline, which leaves more market share for those who hang in there. The most endangered are printers who do not specialize or sell into niche markets. There will be low sales growth. More printers will get into large-format, which will continue to drive down pricing per square foot. Green marketing will become less important as most clients expect their printer to be green, making green not a differentiator any more.

Inkjet innovation in lowering cost and raising speed will continue—it will become clearer that inkjet will replace toner-based printing sooner rather than later. More printers will

look to join peer groups as a way to try to improve and grow. There will be more emphasis on social networking for marketing—LinkedIn will become bigger than Facebook for business.”

Dave Fellman, QP columnist and sales consultant: “I agree with Mitch and would add a few thoughts: Added capacity doesn’t have to drive pricing down in large-format, but it will because most printers sell price, not value.

I hope more printers will join peer groups—and franchises!—but that will still be a very small percentage of all of the printers who need help.

More time will be wasted on social networking than actual benefit derived, especially for the printers who fool around on Facebook rather than working with LinkedIn.

There’ll be lots of talk about making the transition from ‘printer’ to ‘marketing services provider,’ but not a lot of action. The exceptions will be in peer groups and franchises, where they’re getting a lot of support on both the underlying technologies and how to actually make the transition.

The greatest danger to most printers will continue to be the loss of one or more major customers, with migration of printed materials to other media continuing to be the second greatest threat. The solution? Building and maintaining a prospect pipeline and being able to generate revenue from those other media—in other words, making the transition to MSP.

Many (most?) printers remain pessimistic—and will continue to live a self fulfilling prophecy. I see the glass more than half full for progressive printers—way more than half full for those who embrace the future and get themselves out on the front end of the opportunity.”