The age of our companies averaged out a little over 28 years (28.45 years), with our oldest founded in 1898, 114 years ago: Philadelphia, PA-based Berry & Homer. Filmet Color Laboratories, Inc. from Cheswick, PA, is the only other firm on the list to top out at more than a century old—boasting 102 years. Again this year, we have five shops with more than 50 years in business: PacBlue Printing (62), Thomas Reprographics, Inc. (56), Alabama Graphics (56), Coloredge New York * Los Angeles (53), and Sharpe Images (51). Our youngest shop was established in 2010: Digital Graphics Express, based in Concord.
The total number of locations is up this year, 106 versus 98 in 2010. While most shops had only a handful of locations—ranging from one to four—five of our Top 40 have five or more locations, with Thomas Reprographics, Inc. topping out with 28, down from last year’s 31. New York-based Duggal Visual Solutions and San Diego, CA-based reproHAUS Corp. have six locations currently, while Coloredge New York * Los Angeles and Winston-Salem, NC-based Sharpe Images boast five apiece. Additionally, the Top 40 Shops have plans to open up 20 new locations in 2012, down 10 from last year’s projected number.
The Top Shops offer a range of capabilities and services, both color and black-and-white graphics, as needed. Fifty-eight percent of the Top 40 offer both black-and-white and color graphics while 42 percent are “color-only” shops. When it comes to output sizes produced, the numbers stay pretty consistent with the report from last year. As an average, 51.21 percent of the top shops’ output is wide-format (36-96 inches in width), down from 53.55 percent in 2010. Grand-format (96-inches plus) grabs the next largest share with 24.38 percent, down from 26.82 percent the previous year. Medium-format (24-35 inches) gained the most traction this year, topping out at 18.21 percent, up from 14.95 percent. The remaining 6.21 percent is in small-format (14-inches and smaller documents) down up from 7.32 percent.
We’ve seen some shift in the types of work being done in shops this year. Retail and POP displays and signs (including floor graphics) moved to the lead position, up three percent to 18.49 percent. This is probably tied directly in with positive trending of the Consumer Confidence Index—showing gains during January, March, April, July, November, and December 2011—and the subsequent advertising push from retail stores and manufacturers to encourage consumers to spend more.
Banners and signs moved from the number one position to number two with 16.26 percent. Exhibit and trade show graphics (12.36 percent) pull in the next largest segment of business, down a few ticks from last year. Fleet and vehicle graphics showed a slight decrease this year, down about two percent to 9.41 percent. Fabric and textile printing (6.72 percent) saw a nearly three percent decrease. Billboards and building wraps (6.67 percent), backlit display graphics (6.10 percent), engineering drawings (5.95 percent), posters (5.18 percent), décor printing (4.13 percent), fine art and museum graphics (3.97 percent), specialty printing and graphics (3.08 percent), and other applications (1.69 percent) round out the rest of the applications.
New Market Opportunities
The Top 40 pointed to several key market niches they believe had the most opportunity for growth in 2012. Not surprisingly, digital signage and LED displays were at the top of that list. While digital signage is not within the reach of some sign and digital graphics companies, ignoring it—and its impact on the market—is not smart for your business. While digital signage is not every PSP’s cup of tea, the technology will begin to move some projects—wayfinding signage in hotels, conference centers, and airports to digital billboards—away from the traditional sign and graphics market.
The next four market segments rounding out the top five growth areas—window graphics, POP and retail, corporate branding, and fabric graphics—are all tied together and, as mentioned above, the retail market, which saw a tremendous push in 2011, seems to be continuing on into 2012. Today, retailers are looking to engage with the consumer in more ways than just inside the retail environment. They have expanded the scope of their campaigns from the brick-and-mortar stores to online—ecommerce and social media marketing—and out-of-home advertising opportunities. PSPs have a real opportunity in this space to support retailers by helping them to provide a unified message to their customers—no matter what platform they wish to use to engage the consumer.