Sat, Aug

Widthwise 2010: The Finding

Image Reports has just published the results of its third annual survey of print companies involved in wide-format print across the UK and Ireland. The findings are explored in detail in the Widthwise Report, a free copy of which can be downloaded from the IR website, but here’s a synopsis of the key issues.

If the saying ‘you get out what you put in’ has any truth then the newly published Widthwise Report should provide plenty of thought provoking material, being the accumulation and analysis of data from 222 UK and Ireland print companies involved in wide-format print – making it the most sector and regional specific publication of its type.

For the third year in succession, Image Reports conducted a survey of wide-format players of all shapes and sizes to get a true snapshot of the industry, the focus this time around being to provide an insight into competitiveness and what it takes to become a leader of the pack. The findings reiterate the importance of differentiation, diversification and creative strategic business planning for long-term success.

Of those respondents for whom wide-format is not already 100% of their business (just 15% of the total number polled said they are all wide-format) 74% expect to see the ratio of wide-format print work increase in the next two years. So it’s not surprising that 67% of those polled consider it a high/very high priority to find/enter new wide-format markets or offer new services. 72% of those polled said they will be buying new equipment specifically to take them into new markets and 70% said they are having to make strategic changes within their businesses win work from new markets or for new applications.

Asked why diversification is such a high priority, growing turnover came out slightly ahead of improving margin! But perhaps it really has more to do with the shape of today’s market. Questioned over who is stimulating new market development, end clients came top of the list. With respondents also claiming that 43% of wide-format turnover now comes in direct from the end client (and another 17% from the consumer markets) it’s clear why print providers feel pressure to be more creative and have a business set-up and service offering that fully engages that end client. 60% of those polled now offer wide-format customers services beyond print production, finishing and installation – and another 11% plan to within the next two years.

Statistics show that just over three quarters of wide-format printers currently undertake poster work (75.9 %), followed by exhibition/display graphics (67.4%) and then general banners/flags/signage (64.7%). Way down the scale of current offerings is industrial speciality print (7.6%), textile printing for garments (9.4%) and for interiors (12.1%), packaging (10.7%) and cardboard engineering (13.4%). Asked which niches they had entered over the last year and/or are planning to become involved with over the next couple of years, these ‘bottom’ dwellers were still relatively slow movers.

When asked what recent/anticipated technological development have had/will have the greatest impact in terms of allowing new applications/opening new markets, 43.2% cited the expanding range of direct-to-print materials. However, as continual technological developments broaden the scope of wide-format print, printers expect the manufacturers/suppliers to do more to help them maximise ROI. 65% of those questioned feel manufactures/suppliers should do more from this perspective, two percent less than the amount of printers who think they fail to ‘sell’ the full potential of their wide-format kit. Accordingly, 43.7% said they would like a fuller explanation of the applications potential of the kit they buy and 36.9% would like suppliers to be more involved in showing that potential to end clients.

13% of those polled said a lack of market knowledge is hindering hopes of diversification within their company. Another 13% cited a lack of knowledge of the full technical capabilities of the equipment/substrates available to them. But, hardly surprising, time (32%) and cost (31%) are the biggest problems. Lets not forget though, how business structure can impact on flexibility and the power to move forward - 11% said the way the company operates is affecting its ability to diversify.

Companies are using a variety of tactics to reshape and grow their business, ranging from retooling their sales force (29.7%) and rebranding their whole company (26.1%) to researching entirely new market sectors to get ahead of the crowd. Over 10% of respondents said they are recruiting a new business tsar to help them diversify.

The Widthwise survey was undertaken between March and May 2010 and the resulting data compiled by graphic arts market research and strategic consulting company InfoTrends into a series of easy-to-digest graphics that are presented in the Widthwise Report alongside associated trends and issues features by the Images Reports editorial team.

You can download a digital version of the Widthwise Report from the Image Reports website at www.imagereportsmag.co.uk. If you have any comments to make on the report there is an opportunity for you to do that online too or email me at lesley.simpson@imagereportsmag.co.uk.

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