Thu, Jan

Widthwise 2018: The key findings

The 2018 Widthwise report on the state of the UK/Ireland’s wide-format print sector will be published alongside the next issue of image reports. But we thought you’d like a heads-up on the key findings ahead of the key trade shows, where so many investment decisions will be made. Or will they?

There’s nothing like a trade show to focus the mind on investment. This year the decision as to which new largeformat printer to buy has already been made by many of you - and the answer is ‘none’. According to data from the 151 large-format orientated print companies that in January/February responded to our annual Widthwise poll of the UK/Ireland’s large-format PSPs, almost half - 47.02% - said they did not expect to buy a new digital wide-format printer in the next two years (37.09% did). That’s the first time in the survey’s 11 year history that we’ve seen that balance. Last year the aye’s and nay’s were equally weighted.

What’s more, 35.10% polled this time around said they had a zero spend on any equipment/products right across their business in 2017 and expect that to be the case in 2018 too - 28.81% fl agged up a zero spend in a two year period across the whole of their business when polled last time.

However, a slightly higher percentage this year is actually expecting to invest more in total right across their business - 34.44% said they expect to spend more in 2018 than they did in 2017. Last time 32.10% said they would invest more in total over the 12-month timeline 2016/17.

So who’s doing what, where, and why? The full analysis of all the survey data will be published in June - and made freely available to all registered readers - but here are some of the key indicators. Bear in mind the shape of the survey sample - 59.60% of the PSPs have five employees or fewer (5.30% have more than 100), 51.66% have a turnover under £250,000 (9.93% over £5m), and for 30.46% large-format print is under 20% of their total turnover (5.96% class it as their total turnover).

Of the 101 respondents, 65.56% expect their turnover from wide-format print to increase as a ratio of their total in the next two years - only 1.99% expect it to decrease (last years those fi gures were 62.55% and 4.53% respectively). A whopping 76.82% also expect to grow their wide-format specific turnover in 2018, slightly down on the percentage (79.01%) that in 2017 said they expected it to grow over the course of that year.

When it comes to wide-format margins, 44.37% of those polled this time said they saw an increase in the previous 12 months (41.14% said that in the 2017 poll). Asked how margins in the sector compared with other parts of their business, 43.71% said they were better, 46.36% about the same, and 9.93% said worse - a close reflection of the last stats.

So how do PSPs feel about business? Almost half (49.67%) said they are confident of growth, another 39.07% said they are concerned about business prospects, but less so than they were in 2017, while 11.26% said they are more anxious than they were last year.

39.07% said that looking ahead five years they are very optimistic, another 35.10% said mildly optimistic (11.26% mildly pessimistic, 0.66% very pessimistic).

Then there was the Brexit question and what impact PSPs expect it to have on their own business. As you might expect, the vast majority (68.87%) said they are unsure. 20.53% expect it to be harmful, while 10.60% think it will be beneficial. Though the impact of Brexit was listed as a concern for business in 2018 and beyond by 39.07% of those polled, it is the price of supplies that worries most (54.30%) people.

In terms of priorities for the current year respondents were asked to rank a number of options. You guessed it - top priority for most (41.61%) is growing turnover, while 16.78% said improving margins is priority number one (33.64% and 20% respectively in the 2017 poll). Improving return on capital employed is only top for 2.03% and even finding new customers is only top for 12.08%, entering new markets 6.04%... you get the picture.

And how is turnover going to be increased? Well by offering creative design services it appears. Almost two-thirds (60.26%) of polled PSPs said they expect to add this service to their offering within the next year - even more that said the same thing in 2017 (48.97%).

Asked where they would likely invest for their wide-format business over the next two years - beyond large-format printers - design software topped the board (15.23%), significantly ahead of that hot potato, workflow software (8.61%). Other software (MIS, W2P etc.) and finishing hardware garnered little attention.

Overall, 65.56% said they expect to spend less than £20,000 in wide-format technology over the next two years. Where money is being spent, the largest proportion (22.5%) said it would be to increase capacity.

Of the 37.09% that said they would look to buy a new digital wide-format printer in the next two years, 22.50% said a solvent printer was on the cards - a bigger percentage than those looking to buy a latex machine (21.25%) or UV flatbed (another 21.25%). Textile printers? A mere 2.50% had them on their shopping list.

Asked whether they have invested in Industry 4.0 technology, practically no-one (96.69%) said they yet had. What’s more 74.66% of those said they had no plans to this year.

So will those polled in 2018 still be in wide-format print in 2028? Three quarters (74.83%) said yes, the other quarter (25.17%) not. Which will you be?

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