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Mon, Oct

A view from the bridge

This spring Image Reports conducted its eighth annual Widthwise Survey of wide-format PSPs. Here’s an overview of the key findings ahead of the full Widthwise Report 2015 which will be published alongside the next issue of the magazine.

KEY FIGURES:

78% said they expect their wide-format turnover in particular to grow in 2015

48% said their wide-format margins are better than those in other parts of their business

47% said they expect to buy a new digital wide-format printer in the next two years

30% said planned investment would enable them to move into new markets

57% plan to add/expand their design service in the next year to meet customer demand

55% said they have no major technical issues

57% plan to recruit in the next two years

The annual Widthwise Report from Image Reports has become a well-established business tool for companies operating in the digital inkjet large-format print production space. Earlier this year Image Reports undertook its eighth consecutive annual Widthwise survey of the UK and Ireland’s PSPs to determine the state of the sector and provide analytical commentary.

The data from the survey forms the backbone of the Widthwise Report, which will carry graphical representation of that data and accompanying comment, plus features and case-studies that highlight findings and trends thrown up by the statistics. This initial ‘key findings’ article provides a synopsis of the 2015 poll for those of you interested in having an early, potted update on the sector.

The first thing to note is that only PSPs running digital inkjet wide-format printers were invited to participate in the survey. 257 companies did so. Just over 72% have been running large-format inkjet printers for more than five years - only 2% having entered the market for the first time within the last year.

The majority of respondents are from England - Scotland, Ireland and Wales together making up just over 13%. More than a third of the total businesses surveyed are based in the south east of England (35%); half have five employees or fewer, though almost 9% have over 100; 57% have a turnover up to £500,000 and 17% over £2m (9.7% £5m+).

This year, almost 4% of respondents said wide-format accounted for 100% of their business (2.6% 2014). For just over half, it accounted for under 40% of turnover, and a whopping 73% expect wide-format to become a larger proportion of their turnover in the next two years – less that 2% expect it to decrease. Almost four fifths (78%) of all those questioned said they expect their wide-format turnover in particular to grow in 2015. The largest number (38%) expect to see a growth of 6 – 10%, while almost a fifth (16%) expect growth rates higher than 21%.

Nearly half (48%) of participating PSPs said their wide-format margins were better than those in other parts of their business, though a not insignificant number (12%) said they were worse.

Asked what markets are showing the fastest growth within their own operations, the statistics showed that traditional sectors such as exhibitions and display, general flags/banners/signage, posters and retail/POP/POS continued to top the list. As with the 2014 poll, some of those markets hailed as having huge opportunity – like industrial, furniture, packaging - were yet to make a marked impact.

But that’s not to say they won’t. A quarter of companies said finding/entering new wide-format print markets/offering new services, was a ‘very high’ priority. Another 59% rated the priority as medium to high – only 7% said it was not a focus at all.

The respondents were also asked which markets they thought they would move into over the next two years. Murals/wallpaper came out tops (22%), followed by soft signage (19%), textiles for home/interiors (14%) and floor graphics (14%). You would expect traditional markets to come low down the list given that they are already so well established and already part of the mix for many PSPs. Bottom came transport graphics tied with general banners/flags/signage, but also relatively low down the list came industrial (ceramics/metals etc.), furniture…

Providing a creative design service is however, a major priority across the industry. More than half (57%) of PSPs said they planned to add/expand this service in the next year to meet customer demand. Installation is also a key focus (30%), and though it’s been a long time coming, Web-to-print is finally making its mark, with almost a quarter (24%) having said it’s an area of investment in 2015.

Indeed, when it comes to investment, 42% said they expect to spend more on new equipment/products across the whole of their business in 2015 compared to 2014 – 35% said it would be about the same (and 12% noted a zero spend in each period). Almost half (47%) said they expect to buy a new digital wide-format printer in the next two years (with another 22% unsure) and nearly 10% expect to spend £250,000+ on new wide-format technology in the period.

And the technology ahead by a nose in the investment stakes – solvent (26%), closely followed by latex (25%) and UV curable flatbeds (24%). In other product areas (including software and finishing kit), design packages came out top of the new purchase wish list, with 39% having said that would be an area of investment in the next two years. On the finishing front, laminators took top slot (25%).

Asked about the rationale behind their planned investments, 30% of PSPs said it was to move into new markets. A similar proportion (27%) said it was to increase capacity. Interestingly only 13% said it was to reduce unit cost, though the lowering of running costs came out top of the poll on where PSPs would like to see more innovation.

Happily, when asked about the biggest technological issues facing them, over half of all respondents (55%) said they had no major technical issues! The greatest concern was over colour management (14%) and machine reliability (10%). Workflow, oft discussed as a stumbling block, came at the bottom of the technical concerns list (4%).

When it comes to the biggest concerns for individual businesses in the wide-format arena in 2015 in general, pricing is way up there! Over half of responding PSPs (53%) marked pricing as a worry, the only other issue coming anywhere near being the state of the UK economy - flagged up by 41%. Yet wide-format PSPs continue to invest and grow, an indication of faith in the market being that 57% of those that completed the 2015 Widthwise survey expect to recruit over the next two years and another 20% think they just might.

All previous Widthwise Reports are available online as downloadable pdfs at: www.imagereportsmag.co.uk/widthwise

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