We asked some of the top movers and shakers of British print to look deep into their crystal balls and make a forecast for the development of print in the year ahead - and carry out an autopsy of the year just passed
What trend do you think 2012 will be remembered for?
SM Finishing co-owner Gary Benner
I think definitely a continuing downturn in larger-volume work. Everything these days is more targeted now and so you are more likely to get a 10,000 or a 20,000 run of leaflets or mailers, rather than a 1m-plus run. We are not getting bulk volumes as much as we did even two years ago
Communisis chief executive Andy Blundell
The growth in outsourcing to companies such as Communisis. As our corporate customers focus on their core activities, there is growing willingness to outsource complicated processes, which are operationally essential, to the right trusted partner
Mastercolour managing director Philip Exall
It would have to be Landa’s Nanography. Offset performance with the versatility of digital, how this evolves remains to be seen, but it is revolutionary and certainly very exciting
D2 Printing joint managing director David Houghton
For me it has to be Landa’s Nanography, launched at Drupa 2012
St Ives chief executive Patrick Martell
Acceptance and use of social media for business communication
Precision printing managing director Gary Peeling
Digital print matured
Wallace Print Group managing director Gary Wallace
Without doubt the continued advance in digital flatbed technology, which I have continued to embrace
What do you think will represent the single biggest opportunity for printers in 2013 and why?
AB The Retail Market Review will force utilities companies to be much clearer about how they communicate their tariffs and products to consumers. This represents a huge opportunity for the print industry to use state-of-the-art digital print technology to help them make their transactional communications clearer and personalised for each consumer, while at the same time turning them into powerful marketing tools
PE I think 2013 will continue to be an extremely tough and challenging year in so many ways. A contracting market, tough pricing and a difficult economy will all take their toll on the industry, but there are so many positives as the strong will continue to get stronger and the weak will fall. So for us, maximising those business opportunities other companies leave behind will be a great opportunity to grow our business
PM Whether print is used to deliver content or carry a marketing message, it is an attractive and impactful medium. Printers can benefit by showing their customers how to use print rather than focusing on the print process
GP Providing ‘cut through’ for marketers, printed media provides the perfect antidote to falling email response rates. Print and direct mail are working better than ever, the ‘brand in the hand’ is beginning to occupy a more premium space and is the perfect medium for more restrained and robust marketing
GW Online opportunities for those print businesses with clever minds creating print-based revenue streams
What do you think will represent the single biggest threat for printers in 2013 and why?
GB I think cashflow will remain the biggest threat to the industry. People do not want to pay on time and you have to fight to get that. Fortunately a lot of our customers are very good. They want 90 days, we want 30 days and we generally settle on 60 days. That said, we have some customers who are paying us well within 30 days. But as a general trend, payment is a real issue – even the best companies will go under if they aren’t getting paid
AB Continued economic uncertainty in Europe and globally, which may force companies to defer or postpone marketing and new business development plans
PE Pre-packs continue to be the scourge of our industry, shedding debts and staff and continuing with unsustainable pricing. This policy of pre-packing is having a detrimental effect on all printing companies
DH Unsustainable pricing and weak cashflow as a result of poor credit management
PM Aside from a further financial crisis, investing in additional capacity to mitigate the impact of structural changes in the demand for print will further delay the necessary movement toward equilibrium between supply and demand
GP Running out of cash. After a pro-longed period of depressed demand, cash reserves are at their lowest and support will continue to be hard to find
What’s the one thing that the industry should do more of, or do better, in 2013?
AB In 2013, the key goal is for communications to be focused on the single customer view. Regulatory changes across several industry sectors are forcing companies to think about each consumer individually and how they are meeting their specific requirements. The print industry must think about how they can help companies deliver this, to the required scale, accurately and cost-effectively
PE The industry should believe more in itself. Printing is still a fantastic form of media communication and printers should stop talking the industry down
DH We all need to ensure we collect debts on time and start being firmer with the late payers
PM Raise the profile of print as a medium to influence, inform and engage consumers to win a greater share of marketing budgets. We need to exploit data use and analytics to drive personalisation and targeting
GP Understanding the benefits or outcomes of our products thoroughly; rather than focusing on the ‘how’ we need to be able to communicate and prove the ‘why’. We need to work together as a community to gather the research, tools and training to take this message to market in a consistent and coherent fashion
GW Create revenue streams with products online; if you continue to think like a printer you will not progress
What was your highlight of 2012?
GB I think it was that we added inkjet capability to our services with a Videojet BX 6000 and that proved a real success in taking the company forwards. We are able now to better meet client needs and really become a one-stop shop, helping our clients reduce their costs
PE The installation of our brand new KBA 75E six-colour press in July 2012 and being shortlisted for environmental awards at the PrintWeek and BPIF ceremonies
DH Winning the SME of the Year category at the PrintWeek Awards in October
GP Witnessing the links between social media and print starting to take shape. We get to play along once again and may well be providing one of the few solid options to monetise this phenomenon
What are your hopes for 2013?
AB That companies continue to outsource their print, marketing and other business critical activities to appropriate trusted partners, allowing them to focus on their core business operations
PE To be shortlisted for (and, hopefully, win this time) the two main environmental industry awards we are entering again. 2013 will also see increased capacity in our finishing department and an increase in our staffing levels
DH I’d like D2 to win another award and continue to be paid on time. I would also hope that we continue to have a happy workforce, because a happy workforce equals a happy business and a happy business equals a happy wife! I also hope that Jenson Button wins the F1 World Championship
PM For the economy: that confidence continues to improve and there are no further financial shocks. For the industry: greater use and adoption of print as part of the overall communication mix
GP That the positive movement in the employment figures begins to manifest itself in increased budgets
GW To continue to expand the company by embracing the sea of opportunity created by digital flatbed investment
What was the most important thing that you learned in 2012?
GB I don’t think we particularly learned any lesson. We are always trying to maintain the practices and skills that we know work and deliver for the business
AB The slow turnaround in the European economy has shown the importance of having a robust and sustainable supply chain in place and working with a smaller number of best-in-class partners
DH The onset of organic printing and the potential of printed electronics
PM To keep focused on the execution of strategy and the need for constant change across the business
GP Beware of big events like the Olympics; they can alter sales activity dramatically and not always in a positive fashion
GW Keeping a vice-like grip on debtors and as a consequence maintaining a strong cashflow, the blood line of any business
What will you do differently in 2013?
GB We don’t intend to grow in size, but we do intend to expand the client base. So it is not about doing anything differently, but building on what we have
AB Look to expand in markets outside of the UK, even faster than we did last year
PE Our regular staff meetings are proving a success and will be rolled out on a monthly basis. This has given our employees more of a feel for what we are trying to achieve with the business and they are helping us reach these goals
DH Try harder, sell harder, be leaner, take no prisoners
PM Be digital
GP Smile in pictures for advertising campaigns
What does the industry need to do differently in 2013?
GB I think consolidation is the word, and it will play a key role in all sectors. We are seeing mergers and acquisitions and that is about streamlining the businesses and we will need more of that
AB The print industry needs to be more confident about its role in the digital age and demonstrate clearly where it fits in with other communications channels.
PE The industry needs to stop selling itself too cheaply
DH We need to be better at self promotion. We need to interact with the design industry and promote print and the marketing opportunities it offers. The limitations of e-marketing and digital marketing are obvious, but we need to communicate that to the designers and marketers of the future. The big players should use their resources to take our industry into the schools and colleges. Print is going to be the value option in a world saturated with digital marketing
PM Be positive, focus on the potential of print rather than looking backwards at the loss of volume – which is not coming back
GP Stride more confidently. We have a great product and a fantastic story, we just need to tell it