Is There Something to Finally Cheer About?
With our industry's largest annual trade exposition, the 2003 GRAPH EXPO and CONVERTING EXPO, behind us, it's an appropriate time to take stock of where we've been in recent times and, more importantly, where the commercial printing industry is headed. I'd be a fool to pronounce that the tough times are now behind us, based solely on the brisk show floor traffic and the reports from many exhibitors that customers actually made—or are at least seriously considering—new capital equipment and software expenditures.
Even so, many people we talked with at GRAPH EXPO indicated that printers and trade shops in many regions of the country (except for the Northeast) are reporting more stable business conditions as a result of sustained print buying activity. Attribute it to a national economy that finally seems to be gaining momentum, a stock market yearning to break 10,000 again, inroads in the global war on terrorism, higher spending for direct marketing fueled by the national "Do-Not-Call" list or, most likely, a combination of many or all of these factors.
With business conditions seemingly improving for many of their customers—coupled with the new federal capital investment and depreciation incentives—exhibitors were more than ready to wheel and deal at GRAPH EXPO in the attempt to hit their pre-show sales targets. And although it's definitely still a buyer's market, it was a good sign that many actually reached or surpassed their sales goals.
Want some more encouraging news? Then consider the findings from the just-released TrendWatch annual industry forecast. For the first time this millennium, expectations among printers and prepress firms for 2004 are strongly optimistic (39 percent expect "excellent" conditions, up 13 percent from the spring of 2003).
But an economic rebound won't necessarily boost printers' sales significantly, according to the report. Instead, printers and vendors need to change their business models.