Commercial Printing Industry Sales Inch Up
The final numbers aren’t in yet, but it looks like our industry’s sales (from all sources, not just print) increased in 2012 for the first time in five years. The gain was fractional, just 0.6%, but sales clearly firmed—growing by 1.3% during the fourth quarter—as the year progressed. For 2012 as a whole, sales totaled $78.2 billion, down 20.4% from the pre-Great Recession (2007) total of $98.2 billion.
As always, results varied significantly from company to company. For example, sales were up 20.2% on average for the top 20% of NAPL State of the Industry participants but down 10.8% for bottom 20%. And while sales increased 5.0% or more for over one-third, sales decreased 5.0% or more for nearly one-quarter.
Confidence is rising. Over 27.0% of the companies we survey now expect business to improve during the six months ahead, up from 24.0% last fall and 19.1% last summer. Additionally, 29.6% plan to increase employment by midyear, well above the 10.4% who plan to cut employment further.
But even companies that are growing agree business is still too uncertain—too much of a “guessing game” and “rollercoaster”—to assume anything. One owner puts it this way: “We have seen a significant increase in business—but I am not certain that trend will hold.” A colleague adds, “Just when you see a sign of improvement, the bottom drops out from under you. After our best quarter since 3rd quarter of 2007, we just dropped.”
What to do? State of the Industry participants have plenty of ideas. We’ll review those ideas in future posts. One thing they don’t plan to do: Wait for the economy to turn up, the competition to shake out, or for things to somehow get back to the way they used to be. And that’s the most encouraging news of all.