Book Market Outlook -- El-hi, Potter Hold Keys To Success
One positive variable to watch in 2003, according to Allee, is full adoption of PDF-based workflows to capitalize on the dependability that PDF offers while maintaining uniformity among plants.
"PDF has streamlined our process by increasing throughput while at the same time reducing the opportunities for errors," he says.
Chicago-based R.R. Donnelley concentrates on three book segments—education (el-hi and secondary), consumer and specialty (juvenile, religious). According to Book Group President Ed Lane, 2002 was a year of mixed results. The weak economy, paired with a slowdown in state spending, and a slowdown in the adoption cycle, hampered the el-hi market. But strong student enrollment levels buoyed the college segment.
"We had a strong education season," Lane notes. "We produced record volumes in the traditional peak periods for the el-hi market. We deployed our entire platform of capabilities and multiple plant locations to provide flexibility and reliability for customers. The feedback we're getting is very positive."
The single- and four-color consumer trade segment experienced a slow recovery throughout 2002, Lane says, gaining strength as the year progressed. Like Quebecor's Allee, Lane fears the one-color market may be decelerating as the year draws to a close.
"It's being hurt by a lack of consumer confidence," he says. "The four-color consumer business has been strong throughout the year, though. Demand has been pretty steady. Overall, even though the market is starting to slow, we got very busy in our one-color trade book plants right at the end of the first quarter and had been busy up until recently, when we began to see some slowness."
Donnelley has a large share of the bible/religious trade sector, and action really began to heat up in that market around mid-year. Lane feels the entire segment is benefitting from a broader retail channel for religious products, which historically have been distributed through CBA stores.