Globally, printers and suppliers from the majority of market sectors reported growing confidence in their companies’ economic performance in this 5th Drupa Trends Report that tracked patterns of performance over the past 5 years. Packaging remains the most buoyant market and there’s been a steady improvement in confidence over the 5 years among commercial printers. Functional printers were following a similar positive story, but there was, said Drupa, a “puzzling increase in uncertainty this year for both printers and suppliers to this market.” Publishing printers probably face the most challenging strategic changes and there’s a bit of a decline in confidence this year, despite the reducing threat from e-books.
“The report indicates that print can be optimistic about the future,” said Sabine Geldermann, Drupa Messe Duesseldorf Director. “After the double blow of the 2008 global recession and the consumer shift to digital communications, printers and suppliers are taking full advantage of the slow but clear global economic revival and are finding new ways to exploit emerging technologies, so as to place print as a central tool for consumers.” Recruited from senior managers who visited Drupa in 2016, over 700 printers and almost 250 suppliers participated in the survey by Printfuture (UK) and Wissler & Partner (CH). “Both printers and suppliers clearly understand the strategic challenges that print faces,” said Richard Gray, Operations Director at Printfuture. “However, there’s increasing confidence in a strong future for printers in most markets and regions, as long as they analyze their target markets carefully and make suitable innovations to meet the future needs of their clients’ customers.”
There are challenges for some regions but strong growth in suppliers’ core sales
In regional terms, again, the picture is positive in general but with clear exceptions. North America has been consistently the strongest region over time, although Europe has shown steadily increasing confidence. Sadly, Africa and the Middle East see clear declines in confidence over time. Globally, this is the fourth year of increasing confidence reported by suppliers, the survey indicated. What’s striking this year is the surge in sales of core equipment/software/materials (+29% net balance). Indeed, all supplier revenue streams showed their best-ever recent net positive balance. Printers globally report that the squeeze on prices and margins continues. But, there’s evidence that, over time, the squeeze on prices and margins will somewhat lessen globally. However, the regional picture is far more problematic. For example, whil North America reported some increase in prices, Australia/Oceania reported a clear drop in pricing. Meanwhile, packaging prices are holding up globally while publishing, and to a lesser degree commercial prices, continue to decline.
Digital print grows but conventional print still dominates
The transition to digital print continues but slowly, said the report, with functional printers now largely dependent on digital print, but few packaging printers reporting significant digital sales as yet (60% of functional printers report more that 50% of turnover is digital, while just 12% of packaging printers report more than 25% of turnover is digital). It’s striking, Drupa added, to report that only 27% of all printer participants operate a web-to-print or online storefront platform – up a mere 2% from 2014.
Globally, printers were more willing to invest. About 42% reported an increase in capital expenditures compared to the previous year, while 9% reported a decline – a positive net balance of 33%. North America performed best with a net balance increase of 51%, while Australia/Oceania lagged farthest behind with a net increase of only 18%. Not surprisingly packaging printers reported the biggest positive net balance at +45%, with functional at +42%, commercial at +30% and publishing at +20%. Finishing was the most popular focus for investments for the second year running, followed by print technology and then prepress/workflow/MIS.
Plans for print investment in 2018 depended on the market sector, with flexo the most popular choice in packaging, followed by sheetfed offset. In commercial print, digital toner cutsheet colour was the leader, followed closely by sheetfed offset and digital inkjet wide-format. In publishing, sheetfed offset led the way, with digital toner cutsheet colour in second place. As far as functional, it was digital toner cutsheet colour that came in on top, with digital inkjet wide-format placing second. The full report in English is scheduled to be released by the end of April, with the executive summary available in German, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian and Chinese. The full report in English will be available for sale at www.drupa.com.