Print order volumes highest since 2010, survey shows

By Hannah Jordan, Monday 11 November 2013

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Volume and output increased in Q3 of 2013 and confidence is strong for the fourth quarter, according to the latest Printing Outlook survey.

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The BPIF’s quarterly report, which surveyed 110 businesses, employing 10,835 people across the UK, revealed that 31% of respondents experienced a boost in orders compared to 15% for whom demand declined. Around half said order volumes were stable and three quarters (the highest number in 20 years) reported stable profit margins.

Meanwhile, production for around a third of respondents was on the rise in the last quarter thanks to a boost in new business contracts. Confidence among business owners is also picking up with around 50% predicting a continued rise in new business over the traditionally busier fourth quarter. Only 6% of respondents expect a decline, the report shows.

"It’s great news that productive output and confidence is returning to the printing industry. Not just for companies operating within the industry but the wider economy, from which our varied clients come," said BPIF chief executive Kathy Woodward.

Despite the recent negative reports and commentary describing the UK as an unattractive place for manufacturing, respondents to the latest Printing Outlook survey displayed a more confident mood with more than half (54%) expecting further general recovery during the next quarter of the year. This was partly attributed to Christmas business, but also a general uplift in confidence across the industry.

Capacity usage is also on the up across the industry, according to the research, with 71% of respondents working to at least 80% of capacity and 6% working to optimum capacity – also the best figures since 2011.

On the greatest challenges affecting businesses, three quarters of respondents cited competitors’ undercutting prices to win business, with insufficient profit to invest and pre-pack administrations the next two greatest concerns of printing industry bosses.

Cost pressures also feature as a challenge with energy hikes taking the top spot followed by ‘other’, labour and ink.

Woodward said the BPIF was actively seeking reform in pre-pack legislation and was in talks with government officials on the matter.

She added: "We’re also aware of the impact of rising energy costs so we’ve been collaborating with other trade associations to review the government’s Electricity Market Reform Bill and influence energy policy, as well as working with specialists in energy management so that we can get best practice advice and guidance for BPIF members."

Once again, payment terms were a problem with 48% of those surveyed forced to accept longer payment terms from their customers. Borrowing, meanwhile, is getting easier although it has become more expensive, respondents said.

The latest Printing Outlook survey was carried out between 1 and 14 October.

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