While US commercial printing shipments ended their skid at the end of 2014, industry profits fell compared to 2013. Even for the third and fourth quarter, where revenue comparisons were slightly higher than 2013 ($39.1 billion versus $38.8), profits were about -27% less ($1.47 billion versus $2.01). Nonetheless, the year was profitable, in line with prior years, which makes 2013's profits seem exceptional. The chart below (click to enlarge) shows how total industry profits before taxes (the blue line) has had trouble breaking through the $4 billion level (noted by the red line).
We continue to advise print businesses that any revenue firmness at the end of 2014 be considered a welcome pause, but revisions to product offerings, strategic focus, and sales processes must continue. Technological, social, and economic changes related to media do not pause, so print business executives and owners can't either.
A slightly different story is seen in this next chart, profits per employee (click to enlarge). The industry profits data are one set, but they do not indicate how individual businesses might be doing, especially when the industry has been contracting. Profits per employee provides a different perspective.
The profits per employee of 2013 were the highest since 2000. The $6,705 per employee of 2014 was lower than that of 2012's $7,292. The average profit per employee for the last five years has been $7,000.
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