Without a doubt, the sign and graphics industry—much like every industry—has been in turmoil since the beginning of the recession. Over the past few years, we’ve all been forced to take steps to keep our businesses afloat and have ended up, in many cases, doing much more with much less. “It’s still a constant push to make more with less—money, skilled workers, and customers who are skittish at best,” said Patrick Palmer, president, Copies Today SpeedyLitho.
“This year has been a real roller coaster. I think the biggest stress is the fact that all the old graphs and charts no longer have any credibility for projecting future business. It seems that many more businesses are living paycheck to paycheck,” said Kevin Messina, president, Stripeman Graphix, Inc.
The “weak and uncertain economy” has played a large and important role in shaping the current market climate. According to a recent Wide-Format Imaging Innovators Panel Survey, 98.75 percent of respondents cited the national economy as a “very important” (71.25 percent) or “important” (27.50 percent) primary business concern in 2011. Maintaining margins came in a close second with a total of 97.5 percent of respondents listing it as a “very important” (66.25 percent) or “important” (31.25 percent) business concern. Sales growth was also high on Innovator’s list of concerns, with 63.75 percent listing it as a “very important” and 35 percent as “important”.
“There is a lot of uncertainty and volatility in the market right now. The economic and political landscapes are not good here in the US or abroad. That does not make for a prosperous time. This is not just related to products for advertising. It is a general theme overall for all businesses, not just decorative graphics,” said Rick Moore, director of marketing - merchant and graphics products, MACtac.
“In general, the sign and graphic industry is experiencing moderate growth in 2011. With the overall economy growing at an anemic pace—Blue Chip Economic Indicators forecast real GDP growth for 2011 to be 1.6 percent—our industry is performing slightly better,” said Catherine Monson, CEO, FASTSIGNS International. “Along with the slower economic recovery that we are experiencing across the board, we are having the same challenges in the sign and graphics industry as small businesses in all industries: limited access to credit, increasing government regulations, and uncertainty about the future. Until consumers and the business community have overall confidence in the US economy, businesses will be slow to invest in the marketing efforts that drive stronger growth in the sign and graphic market segment.”
“The US market for signage and graphics has stabilized for the majority of the country, but we still are experiencing difficulties in some markets,” said Ray Palmer, president, Signs By Tomorrow. “Pent up demand and the economic recovery for the first half of 2011 have contributed to top line sales growth, but as an industry, we are not experiencing ideal profit margins for many products and services. Cost controls and technology improvements are the key to achieving continued bottom line growth through 2011.”
“No one can ignore the impact the economy has had on the industry over the past few years. Long established sign shops are no more. The print-for-pay business that has survived has done so by cutting costs while demonstrating versatility to provide a wider range of output,” said Rick Scrimger, vice president and general manager for Roland DGA Corp. “Basically, what the ‘new economy’ means for sign shops is that they have to work harder today to compete for business. To be successful, businesses need to expand their market reach with new applications that differentiate them from their competition.”