The question upon us – what does the new year hold for us, and what can we learn from the time that has already passed? Already the design, advertising, new media, media buying and PR industries have been covered in previous pages of The Drum. However, one area that has had a bit of a bumpy ride over the past few years has been the world of print. So, what does the future hold for the print industry – the all too valued and yet sometimes overlooked commodity in the past few years? Print management companies have come into the fray, while many designers are taking the option of looking abroad to get their print for a cheaper rate. Is the death knell sounding for the print industry in Scotland, or will they be rejoicing of the New Year, allowing a fresh start and the ability to build the industry and make it as strong as possible?
While in previous print reviews there has been a feeling of doom and gloom within the industry, there have been positive events occurring over the past twelve months, with many noting that the last half of 2004 heralded a busy time for the industry. Could the tide be turning? Marketing consultant Karen Playfair of Eastern Digital is optimistic that the company, and to some extent, the industry will remain buoyant in 2005. “We are in a very solid position at the moment because over the past six years we have grown our turnover by 10 per cent every year,” comments Playfair.
She continues: “I don’t know if everyone in the industry will say that, but what the services we offer is in demand from our clients. Last year was a strange one however, as it was not as predictable as other years. I mean we normally have to work round the summer months because they are traditionally quiet but last year we were exceptionally busy.
“Our clients these day look for things turned round sometimes on a very quick basis and that is where our strengths lie.
“In terms of what we intend to do in the new year – I would say that we would like to continue the trend of growing our business is really to do some more interesting and creative jobs.”
Sales and marketing director of Express Graphics, John McTaggart, notes that the company had a busy year in 2004 due to the move and growth of the company in developing new market sectors such as vehicle livers. He comments: “Over the last year we have established ourselves as one of Scotland’s leading providers of printed vinyl for the taxi advertising medium. We now offer a complete service from design, printing and vehicle liveries in-house and have increased our business by around 75 per cent on the previous year.”
McTaggart is optimistic that this growth is not a short lived phenomenon, commenting: “As far are our company is concerned, we foresee major growth for the next twelve months with hopefully the securing of long term contract for fleet liveries. We hope to expand our existing services to include our new specialist areas and to grow our market share in the rest on the UK and Europe. Overall I think our industry will see a continued growth, especially in the large format outdoor markets, but will probably see some companies fall by the wayside as clients push for lower prices and increased turnaround times.”
Ah, that old chestnut which is becoming more and more of the printers working life. Frank McAtear, managing director of Kirkcaldy-based print firm Inglis Allen notes that in order to really make a difference when competing in the industry today, the company has had to focus its energy on customer services – differentiating itself from the increasing amount of print services firms that are now coming into the market place. McAtear also agrees with Playfair that turnaround these days is somewhat quicker than in the past, commenting: “We sometimes laugh about the fact that a few years ago in the job we would have some sort of lead time on the job. The customer now demands that a job is turned round as soon as possible and therefore the fact that we operate our prints on a twenty four-hour basis means that we can do that. I think that has really been the change in 2004. Last year I would say was not easy for anyone, but it did pick up towards the end of the year and I think that this year, while it won’t be easy, should be quite a good one too.
“We really have looked at issues that have affected the print industry over the past couple of years or so – both foreign cheap print and print management companies are two such areas - and thought about how to differentiate ourselves against them. By offering a great customer service I think we have found a good selling point.
“We have also invested heavily in our repro and bindery sections which again I think makes a difference to the customer service offering that we can provide compared to other firms. The key aspect I think when times are tough is to really make sure that you are offering a unique service that will attract the customers.”
Alan McLaughlin of Glasgow Print comments that changes were afoot for the company in 2004 with both a move in offices and becoming a franchise of print.com. He explains: “This was a year of transition and growth for us. We started the year very positively. Sales increased as we were retaining our main customer base and our referral rate was exceptionally high. This did, however, create problems. We needed to consider big changes to the business to cope with demand.”
However, while the company has grown there are still issues to be faced notes McLaughlin, commenting: “The main issues we faced and we feel the whole industry has faced is the publication of online annual reports by the inudstry as a whole. But, we feel our company has fared well and sales have increased at Glasgow Print by 20 per cent. We have achieved this through obtaining a larger production unit and securing the services of a nation dedicated and proven printing brand.”
So, while all agree that times have been tough, perhaps there is a glimmer of light on the horizon as people look forward to the year ahead. And, you can’t say fairer than that.