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Survey: 74 Percent of Printers Saw Positive Q1

May 16, 2014
BOSTON—The latest survey by Semper International, a placement firm for skilled help in the graphic arts industry, indicates a large percentage of printers experienced profits and positive revenue growth in spite of the impact of bad weather and continued economic malaise.

The new survey offers 12 insights that Semper saw in the survey data. Insights include that current revenues remain relatively low, although companies are beginning to report positive revenue growth; despite a hiccup, firms remain bullish on sales growth; and while still troubling, the overall economy is marginalizing as a threat.

More specifically, the most recent survey indicates a positive outlook and improved sales:

• 74 percent of companies surveyed reported a profitable Q1; the third quarter in a row that more than 70 percent of firms saw profits rise. Looking at the various profit centers over time, it’s clear that, while dispersed, printers are finding the greatest margins in digital—via either content prep, reproduction or distribution.

• 40 percent of survey respondents reported an increase in revenue over last quarter—a 5 percent increase and the first quarter-over-quarter increase in a year.

• 64 percent of companies expect sales to increase through the remainder of Q2, compared to 48 percent last quarter—an indication that companies are more optimistic and are anticipating sustained sales volumes through the month of May, and beyond.

• Emerging from the trend lines is also an indication that the economy (42 percent) is becoming less of a threat than it was during the deep end of the recession. In fact, for the second quarter in a row, more than half of our reporting firms cited something other than the economy as their top concern, as lower priced competitors (24 percent), rising operating costs (13 percent) and technical upgrade expenses (11 percent) are also coming to the fore.

• 29 percent of respondents indicated that hiring levels will increase—a slight drop from last quarter.
• Health care remains the fastest growing cost component, but decreased sharply to 37 percent from 54 percent. Base pay jumped 11 points to 22 percent.

• Referrals continue to be the most popular way to find employees. Use of online ads is increasing.

Since February 2003, Semper International has provided a quarterly survey offering estimates of trends in the printing industry. To prevent bias, survey questions—both qualitative and quantitative—are designed by Semper corporate partner Cvent. Survey participants include more than 300 small, medium and large printing companies; both clients and prospects of Semper International.

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