- * Global figures remain positive overall, with some regions and markets doing much better than others
- * Political and economic concerns for the future dampen otherwise positive prospects for the majority
Globally 40% of printers stated their company economic condition was “good” in 2018 compared to 13% who described their condition as “poor”, the rest rated it as “satisfactory”. This results in a positive net balance of 27%. For suppliers the positive net balance was 19%. Both groups remain optimistic, with 50% expecting better conditions in 2019.
Conditions vary between regions and between markets. North America continued to enjoy strong growth in 2018, Europe and Australia had steady growth, while Asia, the Middle East and South and Central America were cautious and Africa was in decline. The 2018 results reflect the established pattern in most regions, although the decline in the Middle East and South and Central America seems to get worse.
The packaging market thrives as does functional, but there are clear signs of increasing caution in the commercial market and publishing remains subdued, with the encouraging exception of the books market.
These results are from the 6th annual survey conducted by Printfuture (UK) and Wissler & Partner (CH) in Autumn 2018. Over 700 printers and 200 suppliers (senior managers who visited or exhibited at drupa 2016) participated, with all regions represented.
Sabine Geldermann, dir.-drupa at Messe Duesseldorf, commented, “The report shows that with a little more than a year to go until the start of drupa 2020, the global industry is in robust health overall. Clearly there are significant differences in prospects across different regions and markets as demand rapidly changes with economic conditions and evolving uses of print. That is the real value of this drupa Global Trends series. It allows readers to track those trends over time and identify how printers and suppliers alike can best invest to secure a strong future within the industry.”
Richard Gray, operations dir.-Printfuture, adds, “Most survey participants are positive overall about the future, despite very clear concerns about the economic and political prospects for 2019 and beyond. It is striking that many show an increasingly confident grasp of how to exploit the rapidly changing opportunities for print, as the wider markets make increased use of digital communications.”
Most printers make money despite huge pressure on margins by increasing revenues through raising utilization while keeping overheads as stable as possible. Globally, there was even a small increase in prices, despite substantial increases in paper/substrate prices. Suppliers also saw revenues and prices increase globally but with an even sharper decline in margins.
Web-to-print volumes are increasing slowly. In 2014, 17% of participants with W2P installations reported more than 25% of turnover came from that source. By 2018, that proportion of participants had increased to 23%. Yet the proportion of printers with W2P installations is static – 25% in 2014 and 25% in 2018.
In terms of capital expenditure, 41% of printers spent more in 2018 than in 2017, while just 15% spent less and expenditure grew in all regions except Africa. Those in packaging and functional markets were very confident while those in commercial and publishing markets were more cautious.
It was generally the same pattern among suppliers. For printers, finishing equipment was the most common target in 2019, followed by print technology and prepress/workflow/MIS. As for print technology, digital toner sheetfed color was the most common target for investment in 2019 for all markets, except for packaging where sheetfed offset took first place. Yet the packaging market saw a 5% growth in the proportion of SKUs specifying digital print across all applications, except for labels where the figure is already 40%.