Spurred by structural shifts and hastened by recession, the graphic communications industry is being consolidated and essentially redefined. That is the conclusion of the recently published NAPL Printing Industry Profile, which reported that the number of printing establishments has shrunk by more than one-quarter — almost 10,400 in number — between 1998 and the end of 2011.
“This consolidation is not a byproduct solely of the recession,” says NAPL Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Andrew Paparozzi, who co-authored the report with NAPL Senior Economist Joseph Vincenzino. “Clearly, the recession accelerated consolidation, but we were consolidating long before the steep downturn, and we will continue to consolidate even after recovery more firmly takes hold. Why? Because structural change is redefining our industry.”
While the industry has clearly undergone significant contraction, NAPL believes it can still grow in the years ahead. “Despite the consolidation of the past decade and the record contraction in sales of recent years, we remain an industry with growth potential,” says Paparozzi, “but that growth isn’t going to be found in the same old places or by doing the same old things.”
The report, which is sponsored by Xerox, points out that prior to the late 1990s, the number of commercial printing establishments would rebound when a recession ended — if the recession reduced the count at all — but that did not happen after the industry’s steep recession of 2001-2003, and it’s not going to happen after we make our way through the recent downturn.
Charting the performance of the industry compared to the progress of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the last 25 years, the NAPL Printing Industry Profile finds that the printing industry grew significantly faster than the economy during the second half of the 1980s and at about the same rate as the economy for most of the 1990s, but that changed during the last decade. “We’ve fallen behind — significantly behind — since 2000,” says Paparozzi.
“Recessions that have hit us much harder than the economy at large is one reason, but not the only reason, or even the main reason,” he continues. “The real culprit behind the widening gap is structural change, led by the Internet and digitization. Of course, the economy is still very important, as the last three years have reminded us, but print’s relationship to the economy is not what it once was. It’s not just about the economy anymore.”
The report provides in-depth data on commercial printing company birth and death rates, sales, and number of establishments by establishment size, region and state. “Although the numbers are important, concentrating on company counts, sales totals, and traditional definitions amounts to just scratching the surface when we’re trying to see the direction of the printing industry,” says Paparozzi. “When we look beneath the surface of industry demographics, the structural changes that continue to redefine print are increasingly apparent.”
The NAPL Printing Industry Profile has been provided to corporate members of NAPL as a benefit of membership. Non-members may purchase a copy of the 40-page report for $99 by calling (800) 642-6275, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting the NAPL bookstore and entering product code NP408.