COMMERCIAL PRINTING -- Running Lean and Mean
Both survey samples include a cross-section of the industry, including printers—both NAPL members and non-members—with around $2 million in sales up to some of the biggest publicly held companies and representing every major product market and process.
Activity Heats Up
NAPL's business indicators started showing an acceleration in activity starting in July 2003, or even late June, Paparozzi says. One needs to look beyond industry sales to get a true feel for the market outlook, he argues, since this simple measure continues to be depressed by the extreme pressure on prices.
The association's broadest measure of print activity—the NAPL Printing Business Index (PBI)—in July went over 50 for the first time this year, after hitting a 15-month low (44.4) in March. By October, it stood at 56.7 (a reading above 50 means more printers report activity is picking up than say it is slowing down).
NAPL's survey also asks printers if business generally is picking up, slowing down or basically steady. October 2003 marked the fourth consecutive month in which significantly more printers reported overall activity was picking up compared to the number who said activity was declining. It also was the third straight month in which more survey respondents reported work on hand (corrected for seasonal variation) was rising than said it was declining, he adds.
Printers who participated in NAPL's "State-of-the-Industry" survey collectively offered a rosier outlook than Paparozzi. They expect their sales to grow, on average, 5.9 percent next year. "Some expect very substantial growth, with 36.9 percent forecasting growth of at least 10 percent and 14.2 percent expecting growth of at least 15 percent."
Paparozzi contends that the more telling data for the industry as a whole can be found in the responses to a question that asked, "Where do you expect to find that growth?" Not surprisingly, 80 percent said they expect to get some help from the economy.