Printing Forecast 2018


The Forecast 2018 report provides detailed analysis of the latest WhatTheyThink Printing Industry Survey, the latest industry economic data and macroeconomic trends, as well as industry and cultural technological trends to look out for in 2018.

Some highlights:

– 38% of respondents to the WhatTheyThink Business Outlook survey said that 2017 revenues increased by six percent or more compared to 2016; 33% reported that the number of jobs increased six percent or more from 2016.
– In terms of revenues, the strongest businesses are either very small or very large shops, with the mid-size shops experiencing little revenue growth, especially when you adjust for inflation. As for profitability, smaller shops fared better than larger establishments.
– “Pricing” is now reported by print business owners as their number one challenge, affirmed with the latest Producer Price Index data for printing from the Commerce Department.
– Few print businesses have any substantial planned investments for 2018, but of those who do, binding and finishing equipment top the list.
– Two-thirds of print businesses said they plan to hire staff in 2018, primarily graphic designers, marketing/communications specialists, and prepress operators.

The executive report was prepared by Dr. Joe Webb and Richard Romano and looks back at 2017 and ahead to what the industry can expect, economically and technologically, in 2018. The centerpiece of the report is a detailed analysis of the results of the WhatTheyThink Economics & Research Center Printing Industry Survey conducted in Fall 2017. Data obtained in this survey of more than 300 industry executives include current and expected business conditions, top business challenges, top business opportunities, and planned investments for 2018. Additional questions asked about shops’ interest in taking advantage of new specialty graphics areas such as print and/or digital signage, textile printing, packaging, 3D printing, and more, as well as shops’ hiring plans for the next 12 months.

The report also offers the latest government data on printing industry shipments, establishments, profits, and employment, as well as the economy in general. Dr. Webb offers his annual macroeconomic and industry forecasts to 2022, and Mr. Romano looks at the technology and cultural trends the industry should prepare itself for in 2018, such as specialty printing, the perilous retail sector, textiles, the Internet of Things, and more,

Print business owners will find the report essential for their planning, in order to put the marketplace and their strategic actions in realistic perspective. Industry suppliers will benefit from the insights into printer decision-making processes and the foundation of new industry demographic data that debuts in this report. Non-economic trends also offer ideas for what to pay attention to in the new year, and larger cultural and technological; trends indicate where marketing professionals and brandowners will likely be focusing their promotional dollars.

“In terms of printing shipments, 2017 was one of the most disappointing years on record, but there are strong sectors and product areas in the industry,” said Dr. Joe Webb. “Executives and business leaders should be cautiously optimistic, but be aware that there are proactive steps that they can take to stay ahead of the pack.”

“We may scoff at the idea of the ‘Internet of Things’-if we are aware of it at all-but it will have many impacts on not only the market for print, but the nature of print itself,” said Richard Romano. “Industry technology trends of specialty printing, textile printing, and industrial printing are still heating up, we do need to be aware of what is happening with technology in general and how they affect print demand. Many print businesses dismissed the importance of the Internet in the 1990s, and of mobile in the 2000s. We shouldn’t make that mistake again.”