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Commentary & Analysis

Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) Acquiring NAPCO Media

The state of printing industry associations is still very much in a state of flux with a few still trying to survive. This latest move may tip the scales.

By David Zwang
Published: August 7, 2019

Today SGIA announced the intention of acquiring NAPCO Media. SGIA initially maintained a strong presence in the Sign and Graphics market, although of late they have been expanding their focus. The name change to Specialty Graphics Imaging Association apparently was just the beginning of their new journey.

The next step in that journey was the upcoming PRINTING United trade show, a collaboration between SGIA and NAPCO, to be held in Dallas October 23-25 of this year. This acquisition of NAPCO brings the potential of a much wider base to the association with publications (and the associated lists!) in consumer technology; marketing, retail & nonprofit; printing & packaging; promotional products and publishing. Combined, that covers a significant swath of the print and packaging value chain. As SGIA continues on their growth path, they will also need media outlets to reach those markets. For NAPCO Media, it is a way for the aging current ownership to exit and ensure that there will be some continuity for publications and staff, something they couldn’t get from a private equity group.

After the ownership breakup of Graphic Arts Show Company (GASC), each of the three partners NPES (now Association for Print Technologies aka APTech), Printing Industries of America aka PIA, and NAPL (which later became Epicomm and then Idealliance), things started to shift dramatically for each of them. Ultimately, they lost the strength each had from the GASC involvement. Some of that was in trade show revenues which were on the decline anyway, but it was the industry strength that they were able to leverage that they lost. The absence of GASC left the door open for SGIA to make its play. So, the question remains, what about the status of the remaining associations?

The remaining GASC partners have gone on to reinvent themselves. Idealliance seems to have found a new niche by going global and focusing on some technical standards development funded by education and certification revenues. APTech, which still has a standards development component, has moved from a vendor-centric association to one that is inclusive of print service providers; and the association is still running the ‘Print’ show, with this year’s Print19 show to be held in Chicago October 3-5. However, the future of that show is not clear. Next year, the show will be combined with Labelexpo Americas and rebranded as Brand Print Americas and moving from McCormick Place in Chicago to Rosemont with a much smaller footprint. APTech is not yet commenting on plans for 2021. PIA is still providing education, lobbying and other services directly and to its distributed network of regional associations. There are other associations as can be seen in this comprehensive article by Cary Sherburne

We can expect that there will be a continuation of these association consolidations, and probably sooner rather than later. With this acquisition, and the changes it no doubt will make to the competitive landscape, one can only expect that there will be further and faster consolidation. Revenues for all of these associations is still dependent on hardware and software manufacturers, and as the industry contracts, there is just so much money to go around. Idealliance seems to be becoming more of a for-profit business with its certification programs than an association; although they do have something in common with APTech in that they both have some focus on standards development. I’m not sure that is enough to justify a merger, but we will see. If not, it is probably going to be difficult to justify the existence of both associations over the long term. Printing Industries of America would seem to be an ideal candidate for a merger or acquisition. We started looking at this when the PIA spun off the Graphic Communications Association (GCA) as a result of the demand changes in the market in 2001, as well as its severance from the GASC affiliation. PIA been courted for a variety of merger opportunities for years; but with the momentum of SGIA, will they be able to continue to put it off? Both PIA and Idealliance have non-competes with APTech that expire in April 2020, as part of the GASC break-up.

A good industry association serves its respective markets by offering many services, from education and standards development to lobbying, community building and outreach. SGIA President and CEO Ford Bowers has roots in printing and understands the need for connecting the value chain as the industry as a whole continues to reinvent itself.

All in all, the continued strength of SGIA along with this NAPCO acquisition will undoubtedly act as a catalyst for further changes in the printing association landscape. Ultimately this kind of consolidation and the resultant strength of SGIA should be good for the industry as a whole.

David Zwang travels around the globe helping companies increase their productivity, margins and market reach. He specializes in production optimization, strategic business planning, market analysis, and related services to companies in the vertical media communications market. Clients have included printers, manufacturers, retailers, publishers, premedia and US Government agencies. He can be reached at david@zwang.com.

 

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