Cautious Optimism Amid Uncertainty and Inconsistency
It seems that the modest upturn in commercial printing industry sales that characterized most of 2012 has continued into this year. Preliminary data suggests that sales (from all sources) in the first quarter of 2013 were 1.6% above a year ago—the fourth quarterly increase in a row. However, as depicted by the following comments among State of the Industry participants, the uncertainty and inconsistency of 2012 also have moved into 2013.
“Big drop-off during the first quarter after a strong 2012.”
“ While our past six months have shown tremendous momentum, I find myself waiting for the bottom to drop again. No signs that it should, but the past five years have left me cautious.”
“Continue to be volatile. We had a good increase year over year for the first quarter, but we don’t expect it to continue.”
Despite continued pressure on profitability—more printers reported lower pre-tax profitability (38.1%) than higher (34.3%)—companies remain cautiously optimistic. While more than one-fourth of the companies (28.3%) view business as too inconsistent to answer, companies expecting business to improve over the next six months outnumber those expecting a decline by a 3 to 1 margin. (See the table below.) Cautious optimism is also being reflected in hiring plans. Although total payroll hours continue to be cut, fewer than 1 in 10 companies (7.8%) expect to be cutting employment over the next six months, while 32.0% expect employment to increase. For more detail see the upcoming NAPL Printing Business Conditions to be published next month.
Andy Paparozzi Joe Vincenzino