The 9th drupa Global Trends Report, published in November 2023, tracks key economic and market developments across the print industry globally, regionally and within markets. Confidence levels were found to be growing across all markets and almost all regions, despite challenging economic headwinds. It is clear that the old saying, “Adapt or die,” applies as printers and suppliers alike seek new ways to grow and thrive.
Last year’s report, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic, was remarkably positive as the ever-resilient print industry bounced back, reporting a more positive condition than in 2019 i.e. before COVID-19. The results this year have maintained that momentum, with a further improvement in sentiment for 2023 and very positive expectations for 2024.
Globally, 32% more printers and suppliers described their company’s economic condition as “good” compared with those reporting it as “poor.” Among printers, almost all regions and markets were more optimistic than in 2019, i.e. before the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking at markets, there is a striking recovery in confidence amongst commercial and publishing printers across the globe, while packaging continues in its confident fashion. The unexplained dip in confidence for functional print in 2022 is reversed – probably a result of the small data set.
Richard Gray, operations director at Printfuture, said: “While positive forecasts might be expected from packaging and functional printers, what was pleasing was the increasing confidence amongst commercial and publishing printers.” It seems that commercial and publishing printers have overcome the greatest impact of digitization and are now more optimistic about the future.
Higher prices bring more confidence
The reason for the increased confidence across all markets can be seen in the financial performance figures. Globally, 50% more printers raised prices in 2023 than lowered them, continuing last year’s trend after seven years of falling prices. This results in improved revenues and margins. This pattern can be observed across all markets, although there are regional differences.
Digital adaption is growing
The resilience of Sheetfed offset print volume across all markets is remarkable. This also applies to growth in flexographic printing among packaging printers. Digital toner cutsheet color remains the volume leader among digital printing technologies. Globally, the digital adoption – printers generating more than 25% of their turnover from digital – is growing from 26% in 2014 to 29% in 2023. At first glance, this is only a modest growth. However, various industry sources show that volumes have grown significantly since 2014 even though the digital adoption rate appears to be slowing down.
Good prospects for investment
Capital expenditure fell during the COVID-19 pandemic, recovered a little last year and increased this year with 27% more printers investing more in 2023 than those who reduced expenditure; a better global figure than in any year since 2017. An even higher investment rate is forecast for 2024, by both printers and suppliers. In general, the most significant investments are in printing technologies and finishing, with sheetfed offset and digital toner cutsheet color being the most popular technologies globally, though there are significant differences depending on the market.
The report also showed employment numbers amongst printers are flat in the developed economies but show significant growth elsewhere. Labor shortages are reported by both printers 47% and suppliers 39%. Conventional press operators and finishing staff are the hardest to recruit for printers and manufacturing and technical support staff amongst suppliers.
Supply chain issues have loomed large for both printers 63% and suppliers 73%, although all expect issues to be less next year. Strong industry growth forecasts must of course be put in relation to economic challenges, with the risk of recession or at least damaging inflation now outweighing the impact of the pandemic and a wide variety of specific regional socio-economic concerns. The question is whether the industry will remain as positive in the face of inflationary pressures.
Sabine Geldermann, director drupa and Global Head Print Technologies at Messe Duesseldorf, said: “Printers and suppliers know they must innovate to succeed in the longer term. I am confident that drupa 2024 will be the ideal opportunity to explore how best to achieve this objective.”
Focusing on the megatrends sustainability and digitalization, the international print and packaging sector will meet at drupa from May 28 – June 7, 2024, in Düsseldorf, Germany. Purchase the full report or tickets for drupa 2024 at www.drupa.com.