Hoped-for lift from 2012’s big ticket events fails to deliver

By PrintWeek Team, Monday 29 October 2012

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Despite the summer’s high-profile occasions – the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games – trade remains sluggish, although there are some signs of things improving in the year to come.

If Benny Landa had not rolled into Drupa atop a new breed of press, 2012 would surely have been the year of wide-format print. Jubilee- and Olympics-related work alongside a plethora of innovative large-scale projects meant that, this year, wide-format was in the public eye more than ever before. And it has a certain allure as a result, increasingly being seen as the exciting end of the industry – swashbuckling adventurers, putting print where no others would dare.   

It seemed that many anticipated this shift last year, with a quarter of the 45% of respondents not offering wide-format print planning to do so within five years.  However, according to this year’s survey, not too many got around to carrying out their plans, as the number of respondents offering wide-format actually dropped to 54.3% from 54.7%.

While this year’s big events might not have delivered the growth that the sector hoped for, it’s clear that wide-format printers don’t seem to have suffered to the same degree as commercial printers, as illustrated by the fact that the number of buyers spending more than £50,000 on wide-format work only fell by 7.7% year-on-year.

In part, these figures demonstrate that the sector is not immune to challenges faced by the industries it serves. For example, the troubles of the retail sector begat a predictable drop in POS work, down from 80.7% to 75.9%. Similarly, construction output in the UK fell 9.5% in the last quarter compared to the same quarter in 2011, and so the fall in print spend on  building wraps, wallpaper and interiors will come as no surprise. That said, floor graphics and furnishings both saw a rise in spend, suggesting refurbishments were still a growing market.

One area many would not have predicted a fall in is vehicle wraps. In many ways, this was the success story of last year, with 54.4% of print buyers purchasing this type of print. This year, however, that figure fell to 34.5%, presumably on the back of smaller ad budgets. Also a surprise is that more buyers now say wide-format is the least profitable print they buy, rising from 12.3% to 17.2%.

There is some good news, however, with 30.4% of print buyers planning to up their spend on wide-format, which may explain why more printers than last year are planning to add wide-format capability, the figure rising to 28.4% from 24.3%. So while the year’s big projects may belie some struggles in the sector, they may have given people the confidence to boost wide-format’s fortunes next year.

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