We write a lot about the challenges that face business in various sectors across the UK and in this blog we’re going to focus specifically on one that is undergoing a technological sea change that has permanently changed the industry.
Since the invention of the Gutenberg press and the widespread adoption of similar and more refined technologies, printing has become one of the staples of modern life.
From newspapers and magazines to books, posters, leaflets and big advertising hoardings – printing transformed how information was disseminated and distributed with amazing transformational effects.
Now, the industry as a whole is seeing itself facing various fundamental challenges that could see it become a shadow of itself in the next few years.
Printing industry insolvencies (2019-2023 to date)
|2023 (to end of March)
We can see that more than two printing businesses a week were going into insolvency before the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns and creditors restrictions came into effect.
Once these have been removed in 2022 then insolvencies doubled with numbers in 2023 on course to match those in 2022.
As an industry printing is classified as manufacturing which is one of the sectors seeing the most insolvencies in the previous few months but printers themselves continue to see their businesses squeezed from many different directions simultaneously.
What issues is the printing industry grappling with?
- Digital transformation
Due to the rise of digital media more businesses and individuals are choosing digital alternatives to traditional print materials. This shift has led to a greatly reduced demand for printed materials such as newspapers, magazines and physical marketing materials and collateral.
Online digital printing technology and online platforms have made it easier than ever before for people to access printing services online. Like online shopping, this increasingly frictionless competition puts pressure on more traditional brick and mortar printing businesses especially if their own digital offerings are sub-par or if their own services are inferior.
- Technological advancements
Changes in printing technology from physical print setting and typesets to digital has resulted in faster and more efficient production methods which means higher quality output and shorter turnaround times.
In order to take advantage of these advancements, sometimes significant investments are required to upgrade equipment and stay competitive which can be a barrier for smaller printing businesses.
- Pricing pressures
The printing industry has always been highly competitive which customers understand and will allow them to prioritise price and cost effectiveness over other aspects of service.
The downside of this is that despite bringing in extra custom, their profit margins tend to be greatly reduced as a result. Larger businesses have appropriate economies of scale so can absorb price first strategies easier making it far harder for their smaller competitors to compete solely on price.
- Environmental issues
The printing industry has come under increased scrutiny regarding its environmental impact both over the years and more importantly going ahead.
The physical production and disposal of printed materials has contributed to deforestation, waste product generation and increased carbon emissions.
As more businesses and their consumers are more concerned about sustainability as part of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments of a company, the printing industry comes under increased pressure and scrutiny.
Printers are having to adopt more eco-friendly practices and offer sustainable printing options which will add to their costs and operating budgets.
- Changing customer needs
The advent of online shopping has speeded up the whole customer journey to its shortest time ever and the printing industry is no exception.
Clients are now used to seeking shorter turnaround as well as more personalised and unique printing solutions often with integrated digital elements if not entirely digital.
Printing firms that don’t keep up with or anticipate these changing needs may struggle to retain customers and attract new ones.
In order to better meet these demands the demand will be on them to diversify services, invest in new digital print technology, provide value added services including exploring niche markets and unique selling propositions to help differentiate themselves – all of which will put even more pressure on their profitability and viability.
If you’re the director or owner of a printing business then you will thoroughly understand the issues facing your sector and what changes you’ve had to make to continue to operate in today’s vastly different trading environment from even three years ago.
But as you know from printing, one change to a plan or layout and the whole process will be affected with little time to amend if you’re on a tight deadline.
An advisor will be able to let you know what options you have available to help you protect and strengthen your business if possible.
Alternatively, if you’ve decided that it’s time to close they will let you know the most efficient and stress free way to do it.
No matter what position your company is in, you’ll be able to find an option that could improve matters. We’ll even let you have it in print.