The 16th annual Image Reports Widthwise Report is being published alongside this issue and can be downloaded for free at: www.imagereportsmag.co.uk/widthwise. In the meantime, you may want to digest the key findings.
Energy bills and the state of the UK economy continue to worry so many of you running large-format print businesses according to the 2023 Widthwise survey. A massive 91.48% of the 176 print chiefs who provided their insider sector knowledge said energy costs were one of their biggest concerns looking ahead, and 80.68% cited the general state of the economy. The cost of supplies was also flagged up by a significant 63.07%, with 65.34% having experienced supply chain disruption over last year too. None of that is good, but this is - 91.48% of respondents said they were optimistic about their business over the next two years. Over half (52.84%) said they were ‘very’ optimistic. Indeed, only one company said they were ‘mildly’ pessimistic - and none were very pessimistic.
There’s good reason for the optimism. Almost two-thirds (63.64%) have seen turnover grow since the start of last year, and for 44.89% turnover was up by more than 10%, though we have to recognise that 11.93% saw a fall. Crucially, profit margins were also up for a large number - 47.16% had seen an increase since the start of 2022, with another 34.66% reporting theirs had remained stable. What’s more, 61.93% said they expected the UK wide-format market to grow over next two years, with only 2.27% expecting it to shrink.
Nearly half of the print bosses interviewed said growing turnover was their top ‘must-do’, with almost a quarter of the sample (23.30%) putting ‘entering new markets’ as their key priority. Although 44.32% said they’d not made any strategic changes across their business in 2022, a very significant 23.30% said they had restructured. And, looking ahead to the next two years, while 27.27% said they had no plans to make strategic change, the majority do. Of those, 22.73% said they would be restructuring. Part of that plan for many is to offer new services to new markets. Of the total research base, 34.66% said they had researched new markets over the last year and 28.41% aim to over the next two years. 10.23% said they’d offered new print applications during 2022 and 22.73% are working towards doing so.
Looking at things from a production capability standpoint, many appear confident that they have what they need to deliver the solutions/services they sell. Two thirds (66.48%) expect to spend less on hardware/software across the business this year than they did in 2022. Asked how much they expected to spend on wide-format technology over the next two years, almost four out of five (78.41%) said under £20,000. Almost two-thirds (65.91) do not expect to buy a new wide-format printer in that timeframe.
There was something of an anomaly when it came to asking about investment across software investment (eg. design, workflow, MIS, W2P, VDP/versioning) and in finishing kit in the next couple of years, as 79.99% said they would not be buying. And there’s still little interest in what print chiefs understand as the Internet of Things (eg. automation, AI, remote diagnostics), with only 6.82% having said they would be investing in such areas. Yet, half (50.00%) of all those polled said improving workflow is on the cards.
The environment also continues to be a confused picture. Focussing on sustainable practices came out bottom of the list of priorities for next year - 1.14% put it top - perhaps because they believe they’ve already taken the low-hanging fruit and don’t know how to reach any higher, but it seems odd when 77.27% said it is now more important to be seen as environmentally friendly than it was two years ago. Then again, asked about their clients’ main priorities, print quality came top, followed by price, then speed of turnaround - environmental issues came way down the list - only 0.57% said that was their clients’ top priority. Over half (59.09%) said ‘few’ clients ask to see environmental accreditations/policies - though about the same proportion (57.39%) said they are using more recycled/recyclable print materials than they were a year ago.
Asked ‘what are your three top environmental priorities over the next two years?’ over half (52.87%) put reducing energy consumption top - but is this about being green or due to the cost of energy, a worry for so many?
It appears that cost cutting while business building is the name of the game as we head into what respondents consider to be a bright future.
Downloaded the full report for free at: www.imagereportsmag.co.uk/widthwise