Idealliance’s Andrew Paparozzi on 2018 Commercial Printing Industry Outlook and How It’s Being Redefined

Idealliance expects commercial printing industry sales (all sources) to grow 1.5% to 3.0% in 2018, after growing approximately 1.0% in 2017. Where in that range the industry finishes will depend largely on the strength of the American economy which, in turn, will depend on the size and efficiency of the stimulus Washington delivers.

A weak package will mean a finish toward the bottom of the range, and a strong package a finish toward the top. If Washington really comes through, we may have to do something we haven’t done in years: revise a forecast up. Print enters 2018 with sales of approximately $84.0 billion, 9.1% above the 2011 low, but still 14.6% below the 2007 pre-Great Recession level.

Diversification continues. Participants in the Idealliance “State of the Industry, 15th Edition” report expect, on average, something other than printing (mailing, fulfillment, database management, marketing services, Web service, etc.) to provide 31.6% of their revenue in 2018, up from just 13.3% in 2012. That means many commercial printers are pursuing opportunities to get involved in their clients’ work earlier, stay involved longer and satisfy a broader range of their communication needs – print or otherwise. It does not mean diversify or die.

Traits of Successful Commercial Printing Firms
Some of the most consistently successful companies in our research continue to derive 75.0%+ of their revenue from print. We’ve learned that every successful company – diversified or not – has its own story. All, however, follow a process that begins with these steps: decide what you want to be; decide what really is an opportunity given your vision, resources and capabilities; and hire experts who will help you realize that vision, because technology alone is not going to get it done.

We’ve also learned that fewer printing companies – nearly 7,200 (or 22.9%) fewer since 2007 by our count – does not mean less competition. Despite record consolidation, commercial printing is getting more competitive as the internet and digitization let everyone into everyone else’s business.
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