Commercial Printing Industry Outlook: Preparing for the Upturn in 2021 (

The commercial printing industry will grow in 2021. Growth will begin during the second quarter, and accelerate through year end. No company, however, should count on the upturn or the shakeout of weak competitors to make everything right. Much will be different in the post-COVID world. And much of the gains ahead will be reserved for companies already thinking about those differences, and how to make them opportunities rather than threats.

Those conclusions are based on the COVID-19 Print Business Indicators Survey, conducted every other month by PRINTING United Alliance and NAPCO Research. Nearly 200 commercial printers participate. The diverse group has annual sales ranging from less than $1 million to more than $700 million, and is located across the U.S. and Canada.

We measure percent change in sales in two ways. Year-over-year is the first to capture the depth and breadth of the downturn. Among all companies surveyed, sales fell 16.9%, on average, during the first three quarters of 2020 compared with year earlier levels, declining for 81.9% — by at least 20% for more than half and at least 30% for nearly one-third — and increasing for just 17%. One participant speaks for many when he describes what’s happened this year as a “seismic downturn.”
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