US commercial printing shipments had another good month in March, up +4.8% compared to 2014 in current dollars. For nine of the last 10 months the comparison to the prior year has been positive, averaging +3%. It is possible that commercial printing shipments have found a level of stability after many years. (click to enlarge)
The chart (click to enlarge) shows shipments for the first quarter of 2015 compared to 2014.
About 10 years ago, when there was also a period of relative stability in printing shipments, current dollar monthly shipments were in the range of $8 billion, and are now averaging $6.5 billion. On an inflation-adjusted basis, monthly shipments averaged about $9.7 billion in monthly shipments at that time.
It's been a long drop, for sure, as mainstream printed goods were displaced by other media. This is good news, if print business owners use this period well. It is easier to renew a business without the pressure of a declining market. This is breathing room: use the time well. Discard unprofitable equipment and product lines, invest in technologies and processes that will withstand and excel in the business of 2020. Commercial printing will rely on many specialty products rather than old mainstream products. Technology advances in digital competitors will continue unabated; you need to use them, build products around them, and compete with them.
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In less than 10 days, the Commerce Department will revise more than three years of data. How the comparisons will change will be a priority in our analysis. If this annual revision follows historical patterns, there will be revisions to data for 2012 to 2014, as well as 2015. There may be revisions back to years prior, but those revisions are usually to adjustments of seasonal patterns that do not affect the total annual volume of shipments.
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