Industry Insights: What’s Your New Year’s Business Resolution?

When we ran the third FESPA Economy Survey after our 2010 show in Munich, Germany, strong signals came back from our global wide-format print community that 2011 would be a year of growth after more than two years of economic gloom. Back then, most printers told us they had fared better than expected in the first half of 2010, and more than 50 percent believed the recession to be over. Levels of optimism for 2011 were high, with a third of respondents already expecting business to bounce back by the end of 2010.

So here we sit at the beginning of 2011. Now that the New Year noisemakers have been swept away, what do we actually have to look forward to in the months ahead? Does print’s fortune cookie forecast a return to strength?

Well, our first FESPA Americas event (Orlando, FL, 24-26 February 2011) is now just weeks away, and visitor pre-registration seems to bear out those optimistic predictions from last year. The most interesting aspect for me is the strategic focus of those planning to visit. CEOs, directors or company presidents make up two thirds of pre-registered visitors, and 40 percent are business owners.

Encouragingly, the data also reveals that more than a quarter of pre-registered visitors intend to invest during the show, 36 percent in the six-month post-show period and a further 12 percent in the year following the event. What better indication that wide-format printers are beginning to throw off the caution that has naturally prevailed through the global economic crisis? Those that steered a safe course through 2008, 2009 and 2010 now have their eyes on the horizon, and are looking at prudent investments to take their businesses forward.

Other predictions are coming good too. At FESPA, we’ve been forecasting market convergence, observing that offset and small-format digital printers would start to look over at their wide-format cousins and spot opportunities for their own diversification and growth. As I write, pre-registrations for our co-located commercial print show Graphics of the Americas (GoA) are up 40 percent compared with last year. We and our partners at GoA attribute a significant proportion of that increase to the ‘FESPA effect’, that is, the desire among ‘conventional’ printers to educate themselves as to the opportunities available in wide-format.Digital technology dominates the investment agenda for a lot of wide format businesses. Our 2010 Worldwide Survey showed that print service providers see the percentage of their revenue coming from digital projects increasing in the next two years, rising to close to 50 percent of income for businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Encouragingly, digital technology is proving to be a real springboard for diversification. Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents in 2010 were expanding the range of applications they produce, and 68 percent had looked at new market opportunities or developed innovative processes or products to tackle the impact of the economic downturn.

Last year’s research did show that output technology dominated visitors’ spending plans, with 45 percent likely to invest in new or additional printing equipment, and a strong interest in ‘eco-friendly’ technology (40 percent). But finishing was also highlighted as an investment priority for 25 percent of respondents, followed closely by variable data capabilities (23 percent) and workflow software (18 percent). Interest in printing onto textile substrates was also high, with 42 percent of respondents planning purchases in this area.

If you’d like to hear the results of FESPA’s latest market research, then grab a place at the Global Business Forum leadership event which runs at FESPA Americas 2011 from 24-25 February. There, our research partner InfoTrends will be interpreting our latest findings.

But, while research data like this gives us some interesting pointers, we at FESPA believe that printers’ sustained success is rooted in far more than technology, process and output efficiency. The BluePrint we published after our Global Summit event in Miami, FL in 2010 set out a manifesto for growth. We singled out the attributes that we believed would define the businesses that would succeed in the years ahead. At the top of the list were strong business leadership and strategic commitment to innovation. So it’s reassuring to see that the leaders of hundreds of North American print businesses have grasped the importance of these, and are coming to FESPA Americas to set their growth plans in motion.

To pursue ambitious plans, business leaders need ideas, intelligence and bags of confidence. We’re convinced that FESPA’s global events have an important role to play in imparting the knowledge and insight that will give delegates that confidence. That’s why we set out to create a brand new event that would move the boundaries of what North American printers expect from a conventional trade show.

FESPA Americas promises a festival of visitor features, offering expert advice, hands-on experience, or simply a healthy dose of buzz and inspiration. As well as the Global Business Forum (February 24-25), visitors can take part in a Screen Masters Workshop with five international screen printing gurus; see digital print technologies performing in real-time production conditions at the first ever FESPA Print Shop Live; check out the Innovation Theater ; watch vehicle wrappers go head-to-head in the live action FESPA Wrap Cup; or participate in the Digital Textile Conference (February 25). This innovative blend of education and entertainment seems to be striking a chord with our US audience. More than 50 percent of pre-registered attendees tell us they’re planning to take advantage of at least one of these show floor events.

We sincerely hope that FESPA Americas 2011 will help our visitors make their business resolutions a reality. If you’ve resolved that 2011 will be a year of positive change for your print business, the old business adage applies: if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got. Time then to shake things up, leave your comfort zone and do something you’ve never done before? A trip to the first ever FESPA Americas could be just the thing...