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Fri, Jun

What Widthwise 2014 shows

343 print companies involved in digital inkjet wide-format production from across the UK and Ireland completed this year’s survey, making it the biggest poll yet of the sector’s domestic players. Here are the key findings.

The data is in and the report is out. Widthwise 2014 is an analysis of the information provided by grassroots large-format print producers, the seventh consecutive year Image Reports has conducted such research. Get your hands on it and you’ll get a true insight into the shape of the UK and Ireland market – where the growth is, where the investment is going etc. The full Widthwise Report is available for free download, but here’s a heads-up on the key findings.

Two thirds (65%) of respondents expect wide-format turnover to grow as a ratio of their overall business in the next two years. Nearly three quarters (73%) of the whole sample expect wide-format turnover to grow more this year than last, with 20% unsure.

Half of those surveyed said their overall company profits had increased in 2013. Fewer (40%) though said wide-format margins in particular had increased during the same period which suggests that wide-format profitability was not necessarily as strong as some other business areas undertaken by PSPs operating in the sector. While 34% of respondents said they expect wide-format margins to improve in 2014, 43% said they were unsure, and a significant 23% said they did not expect an increase.

When it comes to company expansion, almost half the businesses surveyed said they were planning to recruit over 2014/15. Key to getting and retaining good staff is of course to a large extent dependent on salaries, terms and conditions – a focus for one of the specific features within the report. But ahead of that it’s worth noting that when it comes to average salaries paid by PSPs taking part in this survey, 63% said they are under £25,000 a year. And what’s more, 39% do not expect the average salary in their company to increase over the next two years (though 32% do). Incentives like employee share option plans are still barely register.

When it comes to company expansion, almost half of the businesses surveyed said they were planning to recruit over 2014/15. Key to getting and retaining good staff is of course to a large extent dependent on salaries, terms and conditions – a focus for one of the specific features within the report. But ahead of that it’s worth noting that when it comes to average salaries paid by PSPs taking part in this survey, 63% said they are under £25,000 a year. And what’s more, 39% do not expect the average salary in their company to increase over the next two years (though 32% do). Incentives like employee share option plans are still barely register.

The top wide-format print applications areas in terms of the percentage of companies currently involved in them, continue to be general banners/flags/signage (79.6%), posters (71.45), exhibition/display graphics (71.1%) etc., but some of the more niche markets have actually seen a slight drop off. For instance, textile printing for home/interiors showed a smaller percentage involvement than last year (5.8% as opposed to 8.5% in 2013), and even soft signage (16.9% versus 24.7% last time).

When it comes to the fastest growing applications currently within respondents’ own businesses, exhibition and display graphics and general banner/flags/signage came out top, despite those being two of the areas that already have the biggest number of print providers and thus competition. Transport graphics in particular is worth pointing out as the fastest growing application for companies over £500k turnover. Yet transport graphics is only ninth on the list of wide-format markets companies are looking to start getting involved in over the next two years. At the top? You’ve guessed it – general banners/flags/signage, exhibition and display graphics, both of which are topped only by wall murals.

51% (45% in 2013) said it is a ‘high’ or ‘very high’ priority to find/enter new wide-format print markets or offer new services (8% said no focus at all). Asked what services companies have added within the last year, or plan to add in 2014, to help them meet customer demand, way out front was creative design (58%). Things like Web-to-print (13.7%) and personalisation (10.2%) are making slow headway but campaign analytics (4.4%), database managing (4.1%) and integrated print/video (3.25) are as yet unexplored territory for most.

When it comes to technology, 34% expect to invest more in new equipment/products across their entire business in 2014 than they did in 2013 (only 9% expect to spend less), and half plan to buy a new wide-format printer in 2014/15. Of those buying a large-format machine, the top three technologies are solvent (33.9%), UV flatbeds (28.7%), and latex (22.8%).

Software and finishing will also see investment, though nearly half (46.1%) say they do not expect to spend anything at all in 2014/15 on those options we listed. Of those areas where we can expect spend, design software came out top (32.7%), the nearest contender being workflow packages (12.8%).

In fact 14% expect to spend nothing at all on the wide-format process in the next two years and 68% expect to spend under £75,000. Perhaps that’s hardly surprising if you consider that of that said finding/entering new wide-format print markets or offer new services was a priority, the main impetus by far was to fill capacity. Yet, oddly enough, a desire to move into new markets also came top of why those buying new technology were doing so!{jathumbnail off}

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