Printing: A New Industry

By Andrew Paparozzi
In November 10, 2011

NAPL estimates that, at 27,285, commercial printing establishments in 2011 will have fallen 11.1% since 2007 and are down 10,388 or 27.6% from 1998. As discussed in the NAPL 2011 Printing Industry Profile: An Industry Being Redefined, the decline has been widespread across all company-size categories and geographic regions. 

Data in the Profile show that the industry consists largely of small establishments, with more than four-fifths (82.2%) having fewer than 20 employees and almost 70.0% of establishments fewer than 10. At the other end of the spectrum, NAPL estimates that fewer than 4.0% consists of 100 or more employees. In addition to the large share of small establishments, the commercial printing industry is relatively concentrated geographically, with the top 10 states headed by California accounting for more than half (55.4%) of printing establishments and (56.4%) of industry sales.

But as the report discusses in length, the commercial printing industry is not simply changing; it is being redefined. Because of structural change, it is becoming something fundamentally different than it was, something more complex and even more competitive than it was, creating historic opportunity for the prepared and profound threats for the unprepared. Fewer printers no longer means less competition. Measures of market size and growth tell us absolutely nothing about how market share is being redistributed. And, with the commercial printing industry not growing fast enough for everyone, getting on the right side of market redistribution—i.e., growing at someone else’s expense—is becoming increasingly important. 

How do we get on the right side of market redistribution?

    • Think like a leader, not a fallen leader.
    • Don’t ignore the lasting lessons from the Great Recession.
    • Ask the right questions.
    • Pick our value proposition carefully.
    • Develop a new mindset for a new industry.

As emphasized: When viewing the direction of the printing industry, concentrating on company counts, sales totals, and traditional definitions amounts to scratching the surface.

Andrew Paparozzi

Epicomm's Andrew Paparozzi, Vice President/Chief Economist, is well-known for his accurate and thoughtful discussions on the economy and US commercial printing industry. A foremost author and speaker on economic business trends in the printing industry, Paparozzi heads Epicomm's Printing Economic Research Center.

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