Printing Outlook 2023 – The WhatTheyThink Overview of the Current State of the Printing Industry

The new Printing Outlook 2023 report provides detailed analysis of the latest WhatTheyThink Business Outlook Survey, the latest industry economic data and macroeconomic trends, as well as industry and cultural technological trends to look out for in 2023 and beyond.

Read Printing Outlook 2023 Executive Summary Printing Outlook 2023—Back In Black

The executive report looks back at 2022 as well as ahead to what the industry can expect, economically and technologically, in 2023 as the economy at large and the industry in particular contend with the new challenges that have emerged post-pandemic, such as consumables and supplies availability and employee scarcity, the pre-existing trends that had been amplified by the pandemic, and the new trends have emerged. How will they play out in 2023 and beyond?

The report features the results of the WhatTheyThink Printing Industry Business Outlook Survey conducted in Fall/Winter 2022, and includes current and expected business conditions, top business challenges, top business opportunities, and planned investments for 2023. Additional questions asked about the print businesses; experiences during the supplies and consumables “supply chain” crisis of 2022, and industry event attendance plans, as well as hiring plans for the next 12 months, what positions are being sought, and how they are searching for employees.

The report also offers the latest government data on printing industry shipments, establishments, profits, and employment. This year, we have expanded the segments for which we provide demographic data, including signage and display and packaging and converting businesses. The report also includes macroeconomic data, to look at how the overall economy might impact print businesses in 2023, and includes an industry forecast to 2032, as well as technology and cultural trends the industry should prepare itself for in 2023.

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.

Key Findings:

  •  19% of print businesses surveyed said that revenues for 2022 had increased more than 25% compared to 2021
  • All told, more than three-fourths (77%) of print businesses surveyed reported an increase in revenues in 2022 compared to 2021.
  • The top challenge this survey was seemingly ripped from the headlines: “availability of consumables and supplies” was selected by 45% of respondents. “Consumables and supplies pricing,” is number two, selected by 42% of respondents.
  • The pre-pandemic number one new business opportunity—“customers outsourcing more work to us”—has squeaked back into the top spot at 30%. Last year’s number one, “improving economic conditions,” is at number two this year at 29%.
  • Unlike previous years, “we have no planned investments” was selected by only 15% of respondents; “finishing/bindery equipment” and “additional space/new location” are top investment categories. “High-speed production inkjet printing equipment” also came in at a record high in the latest survey.
  • Only 63% respondents have hiring plans for 2023—and the top positions being sought this year are salespeople.


Table of Contents:

Table of Contents
Introduction: Back In Black 5
Out with the Old, In with the Old 5
How This Report Is Organized 5
For More Information 6
1. Business Conditions 7
Revenues 7
2022 Revenues 7
2023 Revenues 9
Jobs/Orders 11
2022 Jobs/Orders 11
2023 Jobs/Orders 13
Profitability 14
2022 Profits 15
2023 Profits 16
Business Conditions Summary 18
The WhatTheyThink Business Conditions Index 19
Looking Ahead 20
2. Challenges, Opportunities, and Investments 21
Top Business Challenges 21
Business Opportunities 25
Planned Investments 29
Looking Forward 33
3. Supplies and Consumables Challenges 34
The Upshot 39
4. Events 40
The Upshot 41
5. Hiring Plans 42
Specific Positions 43
Recruitment Sources 45
6. In Their Own Write 48
7. Graphic Communications Industry Economic Trends 52
Printing Establishments 52
M&As 54
Printing Shipments 56
Monthly Shipments 56
Year-to-Date Shipments 56
Annualized Shipments 57
Industry Profits 60
Capital Expenditures 61
Graphic Arts Employment 62
Employees Per Establishment 63
Productivity 65
Publishing and Advertising 67
Sign Manufacturing 68
Establishments 68
Employment 70
Productivity 72
Outdoor Advertising 73
Establishments 73
Establishments 74
Revenue 76
Employment 77
Packaging and Converting 79
Paperboard Container Manufacturing 79
Paper Bag and Coated and Treated Paper Manufacturing 81
Stationery Product Manufacturing 82
Other Converted Paper Product Manufacturing 84
Corrugated and Solid Fiber Box Manufacturing 85
Folding Paperboard Box Manufacturing 87
Other Paperboard Container Manufacturing 89
Looking Forward 90
8. Macroeconomic Data 91
GDP 91
Proprietors’ Income 93
Corporate Cash Flow 94
Industrial Production Index 95
Durable Goods 95
Personal Income 96
Consumer Confidence 96
Consumer Sentiment Index 96
Consumer Price Index 97
Employment Cost Index 98
Employment and Unemployment 98
Full-Time Employment 98
Part-Time Employment 100
Multiple Jobholders 100
Unemployment Rate 101
Employment-to-Population Ratio 102
Labor Force Participation Rate 103
Not In Labor Force 104
Self-Employment 105
Unemployment Claims 106
New Business Formation 106
Retail Sales 107
Architecture and Construction 109
Architecture Billings Index 109
Construction 110
The Economic Landscape 111
9. Industry Trends and Forecast 113
Trends Affecting the Industry 113
Hot Trends 113
Lukewarm Trends 117
Cool Trends 119
Ultimately: The Only Trend That Matters 120
Industry Shipments Forecast 120
Inflation Multipliers 122
The Last Word 122
Appendix A. Demographics 123
Primary Business 123
Franchise 125
Products 127
Location 131
Employees 132
Appendix B. Methodology and Questionnaire 133
Questionnaire 133
Appendix C. Survivor Bias 143