The findings of FESPA's Print Census, the most far-reaching global industry survey ever conducted by the organisation, expose six overarching trends driving the global wide format and speciality print community. The survey is part of an ongoing collaboration between InfoTrends and FESPA.
More than 1200 respondents worldwide fully completed the extensive survey between May 2014 and April 2015. 50% of respondents were from the Americas, 42% from Europe and 8% from the Asia Pacific region.
Respondents represent the full spectrum of print businesses, including screen and digital printers (34%); commercial, quick printers and reprographic shops (15%); sign makers (13%); graphic designers (7%); advertising agencies (5%); and others.
New to this survey were Industrial manufacturers that made up 8% of respondents, representing an emerging community of digital print users.
1. Optimism – confidence swells on back of revenue growth
The key trend is one of optimism from business owners. 80% of respondents are very optimistic or fairly optimistic for their businesses.
This exceeds their optimism for the industry as a whole by 14%, indicating that respondents feel confident in their own business growth strategies, while remaining less sure of the industry's broader ability to evolve.
That individual optimism is founded on commercial success. Looking at responses from developed markets*, average revenues have more than doubled over the same period, from 3 million Euro in 2007 to over 6.25 million Euro in 2015. Overall revenue growth from 2007 to 2015 was about 9% CAGR for the overall business, and 7% for digital wide format.
2. Customer demands – print is a service industry
Customer demands are driving continued efforts to improve efficiency, enabling faster job turnaround, just-in-time delivery, delivery to the point of need, and versioning/personalisation.
At least 70% of respondents expect these four key customer trends to increase or stay the same, reinforcing the notion that today's print businesses are now customer-service driven.
Adoption of digital processes – including production systems, workflow, automation and web-to-print – is motivated by these expectations.
3. A changing product mix – from mass production to mass customisation
Banners (49%), posters (40%), signs (38%) and billboards (37%) remain the top four products being produced by respondents.
A dramatic growth being experienced is in textiles for garments, textiles for décor and packaging samples, with close to 80% of respondents reporting an increase in demand for these applications.
Respondents report increased adoption of digital production for many of these products, with garments, decals and printed electronics most frequently predicted to migrate to digital in the future.
The changing applications mix is also reflected in the rise of rigid materials, which now represent 25% of output among respondents.
4. Digital technology is the change enabler
Over half of all FESPA Print Census respondents indicated their intent to buy digital wide format printing equipment, with a mean spending plan of close to 100,000 Euro.
Purchasing plans are dominated by UV printers (27%), textile printers (21%), solvent printers (17%), eco-solvent printers (16%) and latex printers (14%). Contour cutters and laminators top respondents' planned acquisitions in finishing.
The majority of those investing (45%) are motivated to do so by the move into new markets with new products or services.
Investment is also driven by the desire to enhance print quality (43%), increase capacity (37%), improve output speed (34%) and reduce unit costs (33%).
5. Textile print growth in graphics, garment, decor and industrial markets
As identified in points (3) and (4) above, textile is the dominant growth application among Print Census respondents. 27% are already involved in garment printing, with 81% seeing growth in this segment, the highest of any growth application. Digital is a key enabler here, with over half of respondents expecting digitally produced garments to become an important alternative to traditional screen printing in the next two years.
Textile printers feature prominently among investment plans, with 21% of respondents specifically focusing spend in this area, supported by 12% planning to acquire thermal transfer equipment. Decorative and industrial textile applications also feature heavily, with 78% of those surveyed reporting growth in textiles for décor applications. Textile substrates continue to make inroads in the signage and graphics space, with 67% observing sustained growth in soft signage.
6. The future of Sign & Display printing is integrated with digital media
More than three quarters of respondents expect live media and LCD screen advertising to impact the wide format business in the foreseeable future, with 36% of respondents stating that these technologies are already impacting the business.
31% of those surveyed plan to offer digital signage solutions to their customer base in the next 12 months.
FESPA CEO Neil Felton said, 'The FESPA Print Census paints a clear picture of an energised community in which business leaders have a clear and positive vision of the future and are reaping the commercial rewards. Despite a mixed macro-economic picture globally, printers across continents are responding to clients’ changing needs, diversifying their product offering, making calculated technology investments with a focus on efficiency and mass customisation, and embracing the changing role of print in the communications mix.'