Our panel of print insiders give their views on how 2018 is likely to pan out for the industry.
Over the Christmas and New Year break, PrintWeek asked some of the industry’s wise men and women to share their thoughts on the past 12 months and the year ahead.
Here, in the first of our two-part feature, we share the edited highlights of some of those responses.
What trend do you think 2017 will be remembered for?
Louisa Bull The growth of Artificial Intelligence.
Kevin Creechan 2017 was probably the year when the industry realised just how powerful the internet printers have become and how powerful they will be in the future. It’s a step-change and an irreversible one at that. It will also be the year when those in the industry became full aware of the benefits of LED UV technology and how for certain businesses it can be transformational.
Steve Cropper The smartphone getting even smarter – and the opportunities this gives printers to link digital and print.
What do you think will represent the single biggest opportunity for printers in 2018 and why?
Peter Bradley Unfortunately, the greatest opportunity is also the biggest threat for printers, the continued consolidation of the industry for those left. The market is still over-supplied but I think by the end of the year there will be fewer people again.
Cropper The renaissance of understanding how powerful print and paper is for effective communication – even young people are stating that they love the tactile experience of quality print.
Charles Jarrold It’ll remain what it was before – harnessing the great changes in print technology with data, analytics and targeting so that print continues to play to its unique strengths.
Simon Moore GDPR. There are great opportunities to use print and direct mail to continue to contact customers. We’re working on ways to supply our customers with more targeted mail ideas.
What do you think will represent the single biggest threat for printers in 2018 and why?
Bull The migration of more and more information and content onto mobile platforms.
Creechan There are too many businesses which limp along in our sector with no means of investing in plant and equipment. This causes overcapacity and price wars and that remains the biggest threat to those in the industry that are innovative and do invest. The continued uncertainty caused by Brexit won’t help either – did the majority of English people really vote for this?
Cropper The Brexit effect for the unknown impact on sales growth and costs.
Jarrold There are risks to the economy if Brexit isn’t handled carefully. Closer to home, not getting the message across to our key markets about the unique and distinguishing capabilities of print communications as part of a wider mix remains a threat – it’s lose-lose if we don’t get this across.
Moore: GDPR. It can be perceived by customers as something that will stop them marketing.
What’s the one thing that the industry should do more of, or do better, in 2018?
Bradley One thing the industry should do more of in 2018 is collaborate. I believe one way David can beat Goliath in this industry is if David is willing to collaborate. What does the print industry need to do better? Attract young and bright people into the industry – whilst it’s good to have experience, it’s hard to see where the next generation of print business leaders is going to come from.
Bull More collaboration between Unite and employers across all sectors on apprenticeships and the upskilling of workers.
Creechan For an industry that produces hundreds of millions of pounds worth of marketing collateral each year we are extremely poor at self-marketing. Prices will never recover and indeed will be continually driven lower by internet printers and print management companies. However, we must try to find a way to properly market our industry and communicate the benefits of the printed product.
Cropper Less battle ground and price fighting – a more collaborative approach to protect the overall standards and yields.
Jarrold At the operational level, talk to the BPIF about claiming your Climate Change Levy rebate – it’s not often the government offers money back, and the window closes to new applicants in 2018. At the strategic level, think about the changing needs of your clients, and think through what that means in terms of opportunities and threats for next year.
Moore Promote the benefits of print. Particularly these days, when everyone struggles to keep up with emails, print stands out and should be used more.
What was your biggest disappointment in 2017?
Bradley I think all printers will be in agreement with the rise in raw material costs being the biggest disappointment. It promotes instability for all.
Bull Failure to find a diet that works that would include chocolate and curries.
Creechan Not reaching number one in the PrintWeek Power 100.
Cropper Having to work during my honeymoon.
Jarrold It was a good year, but the industry remains highly competitive and it was sad to see a number of high-profile companies exit.
Moore Nothing. It was a great year.
What was your highlight of 2017?
Bradley The opening of our brand new plant in Liverpool. We now have nearly 40 new staff in this branch and we’re still growing! Entering the M&A sphere for the first time, we learned a lot and created the Bradley Group. On a personal highlight being added to PrintWeek Power 100 as the youngest entry.
Creechan Spending three days in Lisbon in May celebrating the 50th anniversary of Celtic becoming the first British team to win the European Cup, culminating in watching Celtic win an historic, invincible treble on the last of those days. Oh, and J Thomson winning the Koenig & Bauer 1814 Performance Award of course.
Cropper Significant business award wins recognising the skills and efforts of all the Gemini colleagues along with the installation of our new 10-colour Heidelberg XL 105 Speedmaster.
Moore Joining forces with GI. We’re both market leaders and together we make a stronger, more robust business with an even better product range which gives our customers even greater marketing ideas. We are also getting to work with a lot of experienced, professional people who care about what they do.
What are your hopes for 2018?
Bradley To continue to grow our business profitably and responsibly. Meet more interesting characters along the way.
Bull For Chelsea to win the Champions League, but probably more likely to secure our retention in the Single Market.
Cropper To maintain consistent investment in the team, the plant and customer centric skills.
Jarrold Stability and growth in the economy, a thriving sector making the most of the strength of print, investing and developing a great workforce for the future.
Will the coming GDPR regulations turn out to be good news for our industry?
Jarrold The effort required to achieve compliance is a worry for the sector. Ensuring the provenance and responsible use of data is, in the longer term, going to be a good thing in ensuring trust and credibility of targeted marketing.
Moore Absolutely. Print and mail are the stand-out answer to the concerns about GDPR.
What was the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Bradley Whether you think you can’t or whether you think you can, you’re right. I think Henry Ford originally said this.
Creechan As with most youngsters I was desperate to find a way to make money and to make it quick. One of my relatives took me aside one day and said in a broad Scottish accent: “Son, never chase the cash, chase the power – the cash will follow”. Simple, but effective advice which I took on board and I have no complaints about how my career has developed. I still would rather have played centre-mid for Scotland though...
Cropper Two ears – one mouth, and use them in those proportions.
Moore Charles Grant Salmon told me, your first profit is your best profit and that is still true.
What was the most important thing that you learned in 2017?
Bradley The importance of human capital. Getting good people around you is imperative. Anyone with a cheque book can buy equipment, building a team is much more difficult but more important.
Bull Who I can rely on when it counts.
Creechan That my wife is always right... And to beware of machine manufacturers who try to sell you a solution that suits them and not you – you know who you are!
Cropper The advantages of balancing the genders and ages throughout the team.
Jarrold Be careful when discussing Brexit, emotions can run very high very quickly!
What if anything will you do differently in 2018?
Bradley I will try and be more patient.
Bull Read all the books I buy.
Creechan Listen to my wife more...
Cropper Increasing my focus on listening to what the clients want to achieve, ideas from our suppliers and input from my colleagues.
Jarrold We’ll be continuing to develop the apprenticeship training side of what we do, as the levy beds in, and, focusing on ensuring that the sector understands the value of the support the BPIF delivers.