Editor's Note: Reflections on the Industry

Each year at this time, I get to sit down and talk with experts and innovators from across all segments of the sign and graphics industry to get a feel for where we are and where we’re going in the coming year. Usually, I have specific people in mind to contact—consultants, PSPs listed in WFI’s Top Shops, association representatives, and various manufacturers. It’s always very interesting to see how the industry looks from their different perspectives—all depending upon where they are in the market.

This year, I decided to try something a little different and open up the State of the Industry Report to the industry as a whole, gathering comments and data from anyone in the market who wished to contribute through our online Innovators Panel. While it certainly provided a lot more work on my end to go through all of the responses, I have to say that I think it was a lot more rewarding (for me at least) to see how a much wider group of people from all sorts of businesses reflected on the current state of the industry and where they believed it was headed.

And even though I cast a much wider net this year, the responses were remarkably similar. It's been such a rollercoaster year (or several years, in all reality) because of the uncertainty of the economy. The fear of the possibility of a double-dip recession has put many owners on the defensive, shoring up their position in case that does come to pass.

On the other hand, some business owners and manufacturers have found opportunity amidst the uncertainty, growing their business even during tough times—and finding themselves already at pre-recession sales volumes.

While industry experts are still cautious about the future—based mainly on the lack of consumer confidence and the shaky global economic situation—they are also optimistic that we will see a return to those pre-recession sales numbers, albeit not in the near future. For a more detailed look at where we are, where we’re going, and what six areas industry experts and innovators point to as growth opportunities, be sure to turn to page 14 and read about how 2011 has become our transitional year to business growth and new opportunities for PSPs and manufacturers alike.