A new trend of sustained profit and marginal growth has emerged in the print industry over the course of the past year. It might not be a particularly flashy or sexy trend, but compared to the past half-decade or so of uncertainty surrounding print, this movement is an encouraging sign, and, perhaps, a glimpse into the future.
A new year, a fresh start
A Printing Industries of America prognostication from early 2014 projected that growth of about 2 percent would take place due to the upcoming congressional election season, which historically has seen each candidate use huge quantities of paper for various aspects of his or her campaign. The report went on to theorize that growth would then slow to 1 percent in 2015, after the elections had ended. This has not proven to be the case thus far.
Though there was a small decrease in shipment revenue following election season and through the end of 2014, January saw a strong rebound effort for printing companies, according to WhatTheyThink. After experiencing mostly neutral numbers in 2013 and 2014, there has been a 6.7 percent increase in shipments since the same time last year, as reported in the source's Economic Snapshot. While there is a widespread sentiment that print is in a downward spiral, it appears as though there is no evidence with which to substantiate such a claim. The industry has proven its resilience in surviving both the recession and the burgeoning digital movement , and is now showing positive signs of incremental growth.
Mirroring the economy
As is true for almost any industry, the future of print can be tied closely to the state of the U.S. economy. When the economy is healthy, print companies see increased profits, and when the economy falters, these companies suffer, too. Printing Impressions implied that the economy is on an upswing: In 2014, GDP, consumer spending, business investment in equipment and software, and exports all saw some measure of small but significant growth ranging between 2.4 percent and 6.4 percent. The print industry reflects these slight increases in revenue, demonstrating its ability to achieve long-term stability and sustainability. As of December 2014, the source indicated the previous four quarters had all seen modest sales increases for printing companies, with the smallest increase coming in at 1.5 percent and the largest at 3.3 percent.
The economy has shown no signs of faltering, and will presumably continue to improve in 2015 and beyond. Slow, steady growth has proven to be successful in many areas, including print. In terms of efficiency, the industry is now functioning at a higher level than last year. As found in the Economic Snapshot from WhatTheyThink, though industry capacity decreased 1.4 percent over the past year, capacity utilization increased 2.7 percent in the same period, indicating a spike in productivity and reflecting the trend of sales and revenue growth.
This period of relatively stable economic conditions should allow print companies to have greater aspirations, though it is not necessarily a guarantee of future success. Still, the numbers have been positive lately, which is a good sign for both the present and the future of print.