6th drupa Global Trends Report shows global print in good health overall

Global figures remain positive overall

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Globally 40% of printers stated their company economic condition was ‘good’ in 2018 versus 13% who described their condition as ‘poor’; the rest were ‘satisfactory’. This gives a positive net balance of 27%. For suppliers the positive net balance was 19%. Both groups remain optimistic with c.50% expecting things to be better in 2019

Conditions vary between regions and between markets. So North America continued to enjoy strong growth in 2018, Europe and Australia enjoyed steady growth, whilst Asia, the Middle East and S/C America were cautious and Africa was in decline. The 2018 results reflect the established pattern in most regions, although the decline in the Middle East and S/C America appears to be worsening.

The packaging market thrives as does functional, but there are clear signs of increasing caution in the commercial market and publishing remains subdued, with the encouraging exception of the books market.

Sabine Geldermann, director – drupa, Messe Dusseldorf, said, “The report shows that with a little more than a year to go to drupa 2020, the global industry is in robust health overall. Clearly, there are significant differences in prospects across different regions and markets as demand rapidly changes with economic conditions and evolving uses of print. That is the real value of this drupa Global Trends series. It allows readers to track those trends over time and identify how printers and suppliers alike can best invest to secure a strong future within the industry.”

The findings come from the 6th major annual survey issued last autumn to the drupa Expert Panel of senior decision takers recruited from printers and exhibitors at drupa 2016 and run by Printfuture (UK) and Wissler & Partner (CH). Over 600 printers and 200 suppliers participated with all regions well represented.

Richard Gray, operations director at Printfuture said, “Most panel members are positive overall about the future, despite very clear concerns about the economic and political prospects for 2019 and beyond. It is striking that many show an increasingly confident grasp of how to exploit the rapidly changing opportunities for print, as the wider markets make increased use of digital communications.”

Most printers make money despite huge pressure on margins by increasing revenues through raising utilization while keeping overheads as stable as possible. Globally we even saw a small increase in prices, despite substantial increases in paper/substrate prices. Suppliers also saw revenues and prices rise globally but with an even sharper decline in margins.

Conventional print volumes continue to decline but slowly. In 2013, 23% of printers reported that Digital print was more than 25% of turnover. In 2018, the proportion of printers had increased to 29%. Nevertheless, sheetfed offset remains the most common form of print technology, present in 66% of all printers. Sheetfed offset volume continues to grow in Packaging but there was a clear decline amongst commercial printers for the first time.

Web to print volumes are climbing, but slowly. In 2014, 17% of participants with W2P installations reported more than 25% of turnover came from that source. By 2018, that proportion of participants had increased to 23%. Yet the proportion of printers with W2P installations is static – 25% in 2014 and 25% in 2018.

In terms of capital expenditure, 41% of printers spent more in 2018 than 2017, while just 15% spent less and expenditure grew in all regions except Africa. Those in packaging and functional markets were very bullish while those in commercial and publishing markets were more cautious. It was broadly the same pattern amongst suppliers. For printers, finishing equipment was the most common target in 2019, followed by print technology and then prepress/workflow/MIS. As for print technology, digital toner sheetfed color was the most common target for investment in 2019 for all markets, except for packaging where sheetfed offset took first place. Yet, the packaging market saw a 5% growth in the proportion of SKU’s specifying digital print across all applications, except for labels where the figure is already 40%.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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