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Sales Slide Doesn’t Warrant Blame Game —Michelson

December 2009

FOR THE 26 years that Printing Impressions has been publishing its annual ranking of the top printing companies in the United States and Canada, thankfully there have been more prosperous years than bad ones reported by the firms appearing on our list. The printing industry has suffered, and bounced back, from recessions before.

But, as any print professional can attest, the latest recessionary bug has been much harder to shake this time around. No print sectors, it appears, have gone unscathed. As a few examples, states facing budget shortfalls have curtailed new textbook edition adoptions. Magazine publishers have trimmed page counts and press runs due to advertising declines, and folded some titles outright. Catalogers have opted for personalized and more targeted catalogs to drive Internet-based purchases. Direct mailers have shifted from higher-volume, new customer acquisition mailings to trigger-based, customer retention and loyalty programs. That's the sobering feedback from leading book, publication, catalog and direct mail printers interviewed for this issue on just how tough it's been in the trenches this year—and their expectations for 2010.

For shops both large and small, it's not a matter of mismanagement from the corner office, misappropriation of capital resources or misplaced salespeople that have caused so many print providers to falter during this current economic slowdown. Playing the blame game for sales declines, employee cutbacks and plant closures serves no purpose when, in fact, failures with the U.S. economy should be directed toward Wall Street bankers and investment houses, unscrupulous mortgage lenders, and even government watchdog agencies that lacked oversight and failed to see an impending bubble burst.

Comprising the crème de la crème, printers on the Printing Impressions 400 list are responding to the new business realities. They're realigning cost structures and, if possible, reducing debt loads. They're incorporating Web-to-print applications and lean manufacturing principles to eliminate human touch points and hasten turnaround times. They're complementing their offset capabilities with digital devices to meet growing customer demands for variable data and short runs. And many are now embracing cross-media components like e-mail and mobile marketing, personalized URLs (PURLs), microsites, Quick Response codes and e-magazines to deliver measurable results and, hence, capture a bigger share of customers' marketing dollars.

Similar to the current state of our union, the graphic arts is an industry in transition. Dire predictions that print is dead are unfounded, but so, too, is believing that print will regain its glory days when good economic times return. Since past success is no guarantee of future prosperity, especially in these turbulent times, make 2010 the year you continually reassess your business proposition—whether your ship is sailing full speed ahead or if it's encountering stormy seas and taking on water. From the Printing Impressions family to yours, Happy Holidays and warm wishes for better times ahead.



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