22 January 2013
NAPL: Has the U.S. industry stabilized?
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—The American commercial printing industry experienced a slight rise in sales and volume in the third quarter, says the January 2013 Printing Business Conditions newsletter from the NAPL.

The Printing Business Conditions results come from a NAPL survey conducted periodically as part of its State of the Industry Series reports.

Volume increased for over 35% of survey participants. However, NAPL's summary advised that this isn't necessarily noteworthy, as upticks of this nature typically drop off again. "After all is said and done, our industry's fundamentals haven't changed much," reads the newsletter.

Total sales rose last quarter to around $78.2-billion (USD), up 0.5% from 2011's $78.1-billion. For the top fifth of participants, sales rose an average 23.3%. Figures for the bottom fifth balance the scales, with sales for that group dropping almost 12%; over 45% of all participants reported sales were down through September. Pre-recession in 2007, sales were $98.3-billion, then dropped 14.6% in 2009.

While around 24% expect business to improve over the next six months, 20% expect business to decline. For comparison, over 36% reported optimism at the start of 2012 and only 10.4% were expecting declines.

Participants attributed the decline in confidence to fickle markets, lack of pricing power, and a stalled economy in the face of the "fiscal cliff" that dominated the country's headlines at the start of the new year. As well, the newsletter said that in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, "The apparent disruptions to economic activity will add up."

Moving into 2013, NAPL forecasts sales will grow anywhere from 1.5% to 2.5%, depending on how the economy holds up and whether or not the industry gets a hold on pricing.

Last year during a Toronto visit NAPL's Andy Paparozzi said the industry "can't just count on the economy to make things right," and printers would have to get plans in order. "Recovery is coming, but it will heartlessly divide the prepared from the unprepared," he said.

The NAPL State of the Industry Series reports can be purchased on the NAPL website.
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