Association Insights: The Economy and Print in 2012-2013

In this article we provide a perspective on where the economy and print markets are projected to go over the course of 2012 and 2013. We also take a look at the longer run: print markets over the next decade.

At the current time, the economy is forecast to continue the slow recovery from the recession. While a return to recession is always possible, especially since the recovery has been slow, the most likely scenario is for economic growth of more than three percent over the next two years. The largest unknown, of course, is the outcome of the national elections of 2012 and their impact on federal tax and spending policies, over both the short and long term.

2012-2013 Print Markets If the economy trends as projected, print markets should continue to grow. The 2012 national elections will provide an additional boost. All in all, our projection is for three percent growth in 2012 and 3.3 percent growth in 2013 on a nominal or non-inflation adjusted basis.

% of Change by Function In terms of print function, the national elections should give a particular boost to marketing/promotional print, which means that this function would grow at above average rates. In contrast, print intended to inform/communicate will likely grow at a less than average pace. Print logistics will likely be in between these two.


A Longer View: Our Expectations for the Next Decade.

What about the longer run future of print? For our longer run look, we categorize print by functions:

• Print intended to inform or communicate factual and editorial information such a magazines, newspapers, books, and reports.

• Print providing product logistics to manufactured products—packaging, labels, wrappers, and product user manuals.

• Print intended to market, promote, or sell various products, services, political candidates, positions, or ideas—marketing and promotional print such as catalogs, direct mail, and brochures.

Our forecast calls for real or inflation adjusted shipments to decline by four percent per year for the inform function, increase by two percent per year for the marketing function, and increase by three percent per year for the logistics function. In this scenario total printing shipments grow over the next 10 years.

Adjusting for an expected continuing reduction in the number of printing plants specializing in each function provides a scenario for future shipments per plant in 2021. As can be seen, surviving plants in the marketing and logistics function enjoy substantial growth in shipments, while surviving plants specializing in information experience sales declines.

Looking deeper, we see that the percentage composition of total shipments at the end of our 10 year projection shows significant decline in the share for the inform function and growth for the logistics and marketing functions.

Of course, this scenario is only for examination purposes and is not necessarily a forecast of print’s future. However, it does offer a possible glimpse of the direction of current trends and an environmental scan for discussion and planning purposes. The bottom-line implication is that print and surviving printers can have a thriving future. The key imperative for today’s printers is to implement the strategies and operating tactics for survival as the industry continues to restructure.

The key conclusion from this analysis is that there can be a very positive long term future for print and printers. Today’s printers that are aware of the emerging industry environment and crucial business strategies and tactics have a very bright future.