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Economics & Research Blog

2Q Printing Shipments Better than 2009

For the first time since 1997,

By Dr. Joe Webb
Published: August 3, 2010

For the first time since 1997, all three months of the second quarter were better on an inflation-adjusted basis than that the prior year. Shipments are not near what they were 13 years ago, of course (they're $10 billion less in today's dollars), but this is a turnaround that is quite welcome compared to the rather disastrous 2009. This chart summarizes the difference: What does this mean? The complete audio commentary can be downloaded by WhatTheyThink premium members, including the accompanying Powerpoint slides. It's also available on the e-store. But here are the highlights: Shipments for June were up 2.4% on a current dollar basis compared to 2009, and were +1.3% after factoring in the effects of inflation. It is likely that the increase in sales were accomplished without an equal increase in costs. Weak shops left the market in 2008, and especially 2009, and there has been significant consolidation on the small and mid-size shop level. So you have slightly increased volume in fewer shops, which probably means profits went up (we won't know until next month how profits are doing, but we suspect that's the case). It will be nice to go into a trade show with a somewhat healthier industry this October. We're still a bit skeptical about how digital media will play out for the holiday advertising and promotion season, but our forecasting models are now indicating some level of stability in line with last year. Think of it as a nice pause so that we can take a breath and think about how best to proceed in a market where 1 million iPads are being sold every month and Facebook has more than 500 million users. I hope the breathing room is used by printers to take a step back and consider next moves carefully. These are not times to be tentative, though when things stabilize the temptation to wait to see what happens is very tempting.

Dr. Joe Webb is one of the graphic arts industry's best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. He is the director of WhatTheyThink's Economics and Research Center.



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