Since February 2003, Semper International has provided a quarterly survey offering estimates of trends in the printing and graphics industries. To prevent bias, survey questions — both qualitative and quantitative — are designed by Semper corporate partner Cvent. Survey participants include more than 300 small, medium, and large printing companies; both clients and prospects of Semper International. Participants provide data on revenue and hiring as well as estimated outlooks on future trends. Data is requested from a random sample and is not screened. To preserve confidentiality, individual company information is not part of the tabulation.
“We were excited to find respondents making major purchases. We were also pleased to see a jump up in hiring levels. Both factors point to optimism in the marketplace,” notes Dave Regan, CEO Semper International. “However, there is a darker side. A large number of companies have closed their doors. The remaining businesses have the advantage of reduced competition. We're hoping to see this translate to increased pricing power.”
The most recent survey indicates a positive outlook and improved sales:
- 71% of companies surveyed reported a profitable Q4—no change from the previous quarter.
- 35% of survey respondents reported an increase in revenue over last quarter.
- Looking at the two weeks before the survey, 27% of companies reported an increase in current sales.
- 48% of companies expect sales to increase through the remainder of Q1, 2014 while 38% expect sales to stay the same. Last quarter 39% expected a sales increase and 36% expected sales to stay the same.
- 32% of respondents indicated that hiring levels will increase. The last time more than 30% of respondents planned to hire was during the first quarter of 2011.
- Just over half of companies reported that healthcare is the labor cost component that increased the fastest last quarter. It has remained the fastest growing cost component for the past 16 quarters. Overtime, the next largest component, dropped 6 points from last quarter to 19%.
- The economy remains the greatest competitive threat to printers (35%) but decreased 17 points in importance. Operating costs (17%) and lower cost competitors (23%) increased.
- Print buyers place the greatest pricing pressures on digital (24%) and ink to substrate printing (23%).
- Referrals (41%) continue to be the most popular way to find employees, followed by online ads (26%). Use of help wanted ads increased 12 points to 17%.