COVID-19 Print Business Indicators Research

Source: Andrew Paparozzi, PRINTING United Alliance, November, 2020
This is the third in a series of reports PRINTING United Alliance and NAPCO Research have created to examine the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on the printing industry, how printers are responding to the crisis, and how they can create a path forward.

The research is based on a bi-monthly survey that includes commercial printers, graphic and sign producers, apparel decorators, functional printers, and package printers/converters.

More than 230 printing companies from across the United States and Canada participated in the third PRINTING United Alliance and NAPCO Research COVID-19 Print Business Indicators Survey. Topics included percent change in sales over the last 30 days (late July through late August), current trends in sales, production, quote activity, and confidence, how 2020 first-half sales compared with year-earlier levels, and answers to questions such as: Have clients closed permanently because of the crisis? If so, how have the closures affected your revenue? And what percent of your revenue is directly COVID-related? Comparisons with the results from our first two survey periods show the printing industry has taken a first step toward recovery.

Key Findings:
• Compared to the same period in 2019, first-half 2020 sales dropped for nearly 80.0% of respondents, by 28.5%, on average. Sales fell for 79.1% of the commercial printers, 85.7% of the graphic and sign producers, and 81.3% of the apparel decorators, by averages of 27.3%, 26.4%, and 47.5%, respectively.

• Sales fell 4.7%, on average, during the 30 days ending in late August for companies surveyed. This is a vast improvement over declines of 53.7% and 30.2% for the March/April and May/June survey periods, respectively.

• More companies report sales, production, quote activity, and work-on-hand are trending higher compared to the deepest days of the COVID-19 crisis.

• The index of current indicators continues to rise as sales, production, employment, prices, and pre-tax profitability all continue to trend upward.

• The index of leading indicators reached 50.0 (53.6) for the first time, indicating that business activity is beginning to increase as we move past the summer and into the fall/election season.

• 54% of printers have had clients close permanently due to the pandemic resulting in varying levels of revenue loss. These firms will need to find business elsewhere when the economy fully reopens.

• 78% of firms reported that they have pivoted to creating COVID-related products during the pandemic. These revenues accounted for less than 10% for a majority of respondents but others have been anchored by these sales since March.

• 64.8% of respondents indicated that their number of employees has decreased since January 1.