EDITOR’S notebook

2005 PI 400 Ranking: Industry in Transition

Welcome to our 22nd annual “Printing Impressions 400 & Who’s Who in Printing” issue. Aside from ranking the 400 largest printers in the U.S. and Canada based on sales, this special year-end edition also forecasts major print segments for the coming year. Providing an industry snapshot of which companies are soaring, which ones are just treading water and those that are sinking, the PI 400 is increasingly conspicuous by the venerable establishments that no longer appear on our list—usually the result of having been acquired by another company. And some privately held shops won’t divulge their sales. This special issue also reveals some continuing trends, including:

* Big fish are devouring smaller ones to bolster revenues and gain market share. Industry behemoths like RR Donnelley, Consolidated Graphics and Deluxe Corp. continue to grow through acquisition. During the past 12 months, Donnelley acquired U.K.-based The Astron Group to bolster its global document-based outsourcing business, and later purchased catalog and direct mail specialist Spencer Press. Consolidated Graphics kicked off 2005 with a blockbuster deal for Kelmscott Communications and then closed out the year by buying a trio of affiliated companies, including Nies/Artcraft. Check and forms printer Deluxe Corp. spent 2005 assimilating its earlier purchase of New England Business Service (NEBS). And last month EarthColor snapped up Applied Printing Technologies. These M&A transactions illustrate, though, just how difficult it is to grow organically in the printing industry today. Look for some other whopper deals in 2006 among PI 400 printers, and don’t even rule out hostile takeover attempts of struggling companies—like Robert Burton’s successful, but ugly, quest to assume control of Cenveo Inc.

* Our global march continues, and China isn’t the only threat. Like it or not, we’re no longer just competing with the competitor across town, or even across the country. Digital file transfer has removed geographical barriers. North America’s largest printers heading our rankings have extended their platforms into Europe, Latin America and the Far East. Even so, partnerships with offshore printers are more likely options for most U.S. establishments. China may be capturing all of the headlines today, but countries like Korea and India are also looming print providers. There will always be lower cost print producers, so the key is to maximize the competitive advantages of short runs, reduced cycle times and integration with other media. Smart printers realize clients need multi-channel marketing communications that call for printing, database management, mailing and fulfillment, as well as creative services, Website hosting and personal URLs, e-mail marketing and even call centers. Control the content and you control the customer.

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