Print volumes and confidence grow despite 'tough climate', reports BPIF
The BPIF has released its Print Outlook survey for the second quarter of this year, revealing that, while output has increased across the sector to a positive differential of 19 percent, order growth has been slower than expected.
With 41 percent of respondents increasing their output compared with Q1, 37 percent were able to maintain their volume while 22 percent posted a decline. This, says the BPIF, reflects the anticipated effect of the general election and improved confidence in the sector; the figures have now reached a two-year run in the positive. However, printers are still experiencing 'price sensitivity' in the commercial print space, with some 83 percent reporting this as one of their 'top three business concerns'.
The survey's forecast for Q3 indicates a continuation of this positive output trend, reckoning that the figures will conclude as 43, 43 and 14 percent for increase, plateau and decline respectively. The association adds that, looking forward, printers are cautious about the impact of both workforce management over the summer and the demand for print in general.
Print Outlook also acquires data about the general state of trade and printers' key concerns. In the latter area, Q2 also marked the completion of a two-year run of confidence, with 41 percent observing amelioration against 21 percent witnessing a slump; 38 percent returned no change, leading to a net sentiment of +20. Most – 55 percent – are expecting a static third quarter, but 34 percent are positive against twelve percent with a more pessimistic view.
Aside from the price fight, printers are heavily concerned by the access to skilled labour to the tune of 36 percent of respondents, while the failure to meet machine capacity is stated as a worry by 32 percent. Charles Jarrold, chief executive, explains that this has been, and will continue to be, a key mission for the BPIF.
He says: "The availability of and access to skilled labour has become a growing concern for many sectors [and] not just in our industry. The BPIF is working hard to enhance the Government's commitment to apprenticeships and ensure that our own training portfolio, from apprenticeships through to Masters level, continues to improve and develop so that we can help equip the industry with the skills it demands. The reported strong levels of investment [in] machinery, training and innovation will help to address this."
Other elements to the report show that margins have been squeezed in Q2 – 'a more normal, if depressing, reality' following a sunnier spell in Q1 – balanced against the return of better export figures, improved access to finance and continued capital investment planning. Paper and board demand fell slightly year-on-year; the costs of these materials are expected to rise in Q3.
"There is no getting around that fact that there is no respite for prices and margins on the horizon," adds Kyle Jardine, research manager for the association. "Fortunately, consumable costs have continued to remain largely stable for most companies and improving financing and credit conditions should help companies manage their cashflow."
The full report is available from the BPIF website and provides information about web-to-print order volumes, productivity and cost of materials statistics, energy costs and salary data. The report is free for members and costs £40 for non-members.