Where Are The Young Guns in Quick Printing?

Industry consultant John Stewart recently released the 2011-2012 Quick Printing Industry Pricing Study. The document is packed with interesting pricing information, but to me one of the most striking observations was not in pricing, but in the Basic Company Data section. According to the report, the average age of the 350 printers participating in the report was 55 years old. The average age of the company was 28 years. If this report is representative of the industry, then quick printing is going to go through some major changes in the next 10 years. The age factor raises more questions than answers. Are younger people not coming into the industry? The baby boomers who started the quick printing industry are still here, but where are their replacements? Are their children going into other industries and forsaking the businesses their fathers and mothers built? Why aren’t younger people attracted to owning a quick printing business? The industry has become more high tech over the past decade. Profitable shops are computer driven and integrated with the Internet. Don’t younger entrepreneurs see opportunity for their future in printing? Has the core business changed and older owners just not recognized it? Much of the work that was once the bread and butter of print shops has disappeared. Today’s printing growth is in marketing related printing. This type of printing is integrated with Internet-based services such as social media. It includes variable data printing and database management. Are younger owners attracted to a new business model where printing is only a minor component in the array of services offered? Are younger owners just not attracted to associations that do these types of studies? Do the younger owners not see themselves as businesses that put ink on paper, but as more of a communications partner to help customers sell their products and services? Association membership in the printing industry is dwindling. Is it because there are fewer print shops, or is it that there are fewer owners who see themselves as traditional printers? Has the age of quick print owners hampered the advancements in the industry? Does the age of printers cause them to overlook the changes in the way people communicate? Have older owners been too slow to adapt to business and cultural changes to keep their businesses viable for the future? And the biggest question of all: if young entrepreneurs aren’t coming into the quick printing industry, who will be buying these quick print shops from the soon-to-be retiring owners? Many of the 55 year old owners can probably make some money over the next few years, but can they sell their shop for enough to support their retirement? Have they modernized their businesses so they will sell? Do they have the trained people on staff? Are they selling the products and services that customers need and want? There is always going to be printing, but how much printing will there be? I’m hoping the 55 year old owners are concentrating on making their businesses something they can sell in the next few years because it doesn’t look like there are going to be many buyers available.

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