Semper International, the leading placement firm for skilled help for graphic arts and printing companies, found that industry sales floundered during late February and March, but bounced back in April, creating optimism about revenues in the coming months.
Since February 2003, Semper International has provided a quarterly survey offering estimates of trends in the printing and graphics industries. To prevent bias, survey questions — both qualitative and quantitative — are designed by Semper corporate partner Cvent. Survey participants include more than 300 small, medium and large printing companies; both clients and prospects of Semper International. Participants provide data on revenue and hiring as well as estimated outlooks on future trends. Data is requested from a random sample and is not screened. To preserve confidentiality, individual company information is not part of the tabulation.
“Responses show a slight decrease in the percentage of companies experiencing profitability, less than 2 points compared to last quarter. Close to half of the respondents (41%) saw an increase in sales during the last 2 weeks of the quarter,” notes Dave Regan, CEO Semper International. “Traditionally the spring is a busy time, and the marketplace expects the annual jump in sales.”
“The general economic climate is still the top competitive threat. Rising gas prices and worries about the international community have taken their toll,” adds Regan.
The most recent survey indicates some positive business trends:
• 53% of companies expect sales to improve in Q2 2012, a 13-point increase from respondents who expected an improvement in Q1 sales.
• 41% of respondents reported that their revenue had increased during Q1.
• The number of companies planning to hire has been rising for the last three quarters. 20% of respondents have plans to hire in the upcoming quarter.
• The number of companies expecting layoffs has decreased for the 5th straight quarter.
• While ‘ink to substrate’ slightly declined as the most significant area of pricing pressure (mentioned by 47% of respondents), digital print (33%) and marketing (9%) are increasing. TechCreative, a blend of creative graphic design skills and prepress/premedia skills, was a new option in the questionnaire. 6.4% of respondents cited TechCreative as their most pressured segment.
• The vast majority of respondents (64%) cited health care as the component of labor costs that is growing the fastest. Base pay (17%) and overtime (7%) were the next largest categories.
• More companies, 46% up from 35%, are relying on referrals from internal staff to find new skilled, full-time workers. Flex companies are also being used more, 16% up from 11%. The use of online ads (21%) and help wanted ads (9%) declined from last quarter.