No matter what industry you were in, 2009 was one of the most difficult years in recent history. We saw record numbers of unemployment, the bottoming out of consumer confidence, and cost-cutting measures within both businesses and families. But despite the difficulties, some businesses survived and even thrived. While the majority of the Top Shops saw a distinct impact on their 2009 revenue figures, many—if not all—remain optimistic about the future of the industry and their business.
While we see a number of the same shops from previous years, this year we have expanded the list to include 40 shops. They come from all walks of life—digital color shops, reprographic shops, photo labs, service bureaus, production facilities—and from all over the U.S. Some have a single location, while others do business out of multiple locations over a wide geography. Some are focused primarily on black-and-white or color images, while others do a little bit of everything.
The shops offer a range of capabilities and services—depending on what their customers need. As an average, 51.98 percent of their output is wide-format (36-96 inches in width) up from 49.40 percent in 2008. Grand-format (96-inches plus) grabs the next largest share with 22.30 percent, down from 23.36 percent the previous year. Medium-format (24-35 inches) runs closely behind with 17.38 percent, up a few ticks from 16.44 percent. The remaining 8.35 percent is in small-format (14-inches and smaller) up from 7.8 percent.
Much like last year, banners and signs (19.65 percent) make up the largest application, with retail and POP displays (17.07 percent) pulling in a close second. Exhibit and trade-show graphics (11.10 percent) and fleet and vehicle wraps (10.09 percent) pull in the next largest segment of business. Posters (7.43 percent), fabric and textile printing (6.04), backlit graphics (5.84), engineering drawings (5.76 percent), billboards (4.68 percent), specialty graphics (3.82), fine art and museum graphics (3.57 percent), décor (2.81 percent) and other applications (2.15 percent) round out the applications.
Like last year, the economy is foremost on everyone’s minds and nearly all of our top shops said it would be the biggest challenge for them through the next 12 months. But even though things look grim, many have a positive outlook for the future and are planning on investing in their businesses this year.
New equipment—in the form of flatbed printers, dye-sublimation printers, and digital cutting and routing systems—are considerations for many of the top shops within the next 12 months. Electronic signage also came up more and more. Some shops are looking at expanding into this market segment and combine it with the digital print portion of their business to offer a more complete package—especially for retail environments. Additionally, shops are still looking for ways to automate processes with Web-to-print applications, CRM systems, and workflow management systems.
“The economy will continue to be a challenge in the year ahead,” said Paul Anstett, president/owner of Fargo, ND-based Mathison’s. “Companies will expect their limited marketing dollars to produce results. Many have down-sized their in-house advertising and marketing departments to reduce costs. Printers who can help fill those gaps by providing top quality design services will be invaluable. It will be important to work in an increasingly consultative way, staying on top of new products and bringing information and solutions to the table. Helping customers get the most for their marketing dollar will be crucial. Being able to produce quality results at every stage of a project from design through finishing and installation will continue to be essential.”