Since 2019, the world has changed. The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across businesses worldwide. As the virus spread during 2020, markets disappeared nearly overnight as in-person trade shows, conferences, and events were canceled. Some companies were forced to close their doors entirely or severely restrict their operations.
The economic damage is something businesses are still getting a handle on. Among all companies surveyed in the COVID-19 Print Business Indicators Research Report, Volume 2, No. 2, May 2021 (produced by PRINTING United Alliance and NAPCO Research), sales fell 15.4%, on average in 2020, with reports of contraction exceeding reports of growth by 77.8% to 20%. Nearly half (46.7%) report a decline of at least 20% and more than one-quarter (28.5%) report a decline of at least 30%.
Looking at individual segments, the report shows that sales were down an average of 15% for graphic and sign producers, 17.1% for commercial printers, 22.4% for apparel decorators, and 8.9% for functional printers. In contrast, sales were up 6.6%, on average, for packaging printers/converters.
Currently, though, all signs indicate that growth will continue to accelerate through the end of the year. According to a consensus of economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal, GDP will grow 5.9% this year — the fastest since 1984.
Some economists are suggesting it might even be higher. According to the Independent Commodity Intelligence Services (ICIS), the U.S. economic outlook continues to strengthen. After Q1 GDP growth of 6.4%, ICIS estimates full year GDP growth of 6.6%.
However, the anticipated upturn won’t necessarily mean all print businesses will see growth. According to the COVID-19 Print Business Indicators Research Report, the companies that were the best prepared to protect margins from cost inflation and labor shortages, to identify how client behavior is changing in the aftermath of COVID-19, and to adapt quickly to those changes, will be the ones who really benefit from this economic recovery and growth.
But where will this growth come from? What specific printed products will offer the most options for profitability? How can print service providers (PSPs) get a handle on the products and services businesses need to produce to benefit the most from the upcoming recovery?
Business owners need to arm themselves with the most up-to-date and relevant market trends information, and position it alongside the hardware and technology required to bring those plans to fruition. The best place to accomplish all those goals will be at the 2021 PRINTING United Expo.
PRINTING United Expo is on track to be the global printing event in 2021. The first in-person industry event of significant magnitude since its inaugural 2019 Expo, the fall event — which takes place at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 6-8 — is welcoming printing’s leading companies to display their newest technologies coming to market. Registration for the event, which includes access to Expo Preview, Expo Live, and Expo Wrap-Up, is now live at printingunited.com.
“The industry is ready to gather once again and the time has finally arrived,” says Mark J. Subers, president, PRINTING United. “Since the launch of PRINTING United Expo in 2019, through to the PRINTING United Digital Experience, and now at the doorstep of this year’s event, we have been talking to industry leaders and partners the entire way to understand how these events can best serve them. While virtual events kept us going during the past challenging year, the feedback we continue to hear is that people want, and really need, to be together to begin getting back to business. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by Association Insights, 94.7% of respondents indicated that large industry trade shows are important, or essential.
“Companies have continued to develop products and technology since the pandemic began, and they are waiting to finally showcase what’s been going on live at PRINTING United Expo,” he continues. “With so many updates, we want to be sure all printing industry professionals can see and hear it all. From Expo Preview to Expo Live to Expo Wrap-Up, we’re working to equip the industry with the most up-to-the-minute education, technology launches, and opportunities to connect, and then revisit all these areas after the show to ensure attendees haven’t missed anything. We could not be happier to welcome the industry back together again safely in October at PRINTING United Expo.”
Something for Everyone
Market segments across the industry are represented on the show floor at PRINTING United Expo 2021, which will be the launching point for new technology debuts in 2021 and beyond.
The real draw to Expo Live is the volume of exhibitors and the biggest names in the industry signing on to join the more than one-million-square-foot show floor.
The PRINTING United Expo show floor features the experiential Apparel zone. A café and beer garden are central to the area, which will be a gathering spot for business meetings, peer-to-peer engagement, and relaxing with friends and colleagues. Attendees can select from one of four designs to see and keep a custom T-shirt made on a screen or direct-to-garment (DTG) digital machine, and will have a chance to win one of many spectacular prizes from the Apparel Zone sponsors. Apparel-focused podcasts will also be recorded live in a specially created booth where popular hosts — including Aaron Montgomery and Terry Combs, the “2 Regular Guys,” and the Promo Marketing PM podcast — will be broadcast live each day from the show.
Major exhibitors, such as Delta Apparel, Epson, GSG, Kornit, M&R, Mimaki, Monti Antonio, Nazdar, OmniPrint, Roland DGA, SanMar, Stahls’, and Vastex, will all be displaying and demonstrating new technology in the space.
Attendees will be able to see and experience significant hardware running live on the PRINTING United Expo show floor this year — a first in a long time at an industry-wide event of this magnitude. Some companies in the commercial space on the show floor include Agfa, Canon, ChromaLuxe, CP Bourg, Duplo, Fujifilm, GEW, Graphic Whizard, Heidelberg, HP, INX, Kodak, Konica Minolta, MBO America/Komori, Mohawk, Muller Martini, Ricoh, RMGT, Rochester Software Associates, Rollem, and Tecnau.
Industry brands are increasingly looking for ways to expand service offerings to meet customer demand by embracing new trends, while being mindful of expenditure. Attendees looking for the latest technology in digital textile printing will see equipment on the show floor from companies such as Berger Textiles, Brother, Brown Manufacturing, EFI, Fisher Textiles, Gerber, Greentex, HP, Kongsberg, Kornit, Mutoh, Sakurai, Serge Ferrari, TVF, Ultraflex, and Zünd. PRINTING United Expo also welcomes association partner Industrial Fabrics Association International – Fabric Graphics division to this year’s event.
PRINTING United Expo will also highlight the latest in graphics and wide-format technology. Exhibiting companies in this space include 3M, Agfa, Durst, EFI, Epson, Esko, Fujifilm, HP, INX, Mimaki, Nazdar, Onyx Graphics, Roland DGA, TVF, Ultraflex, and Vanguard. Product debuts from these leading names are in store for those visiting the show.
Mailing and Fulfillment
The industry’s mailing and fulfillment community is a key industry segment that calls PRINTING United Expo home. Leading mailing segment names participating in PRINTING United Expo 2021 include AccuZip, Capital Mailing Fulfillment, Capstone, Crawford Technologies, Kern, Kirk Rudy, MBO America/Komori, Pitney Bowes, Printware, Quadient, United Business Mail, U.S. Postal Service, Tecnau, and W+D. The event will also feature postal trade groups, such as the Envelope Manufacturers Association, In-Plant Printing and Mailing Association (IPMA), and PostCom, as well as mailing publication Mailing Systems Technology. All these companies will be showcasing, highlighting, or bringing members to experience the latest solutions for mailing and converters.
Packaging is a major focus and highlighted area of this year’s event. A special area of the show floor in this space is a dedicated Packaging Pavilion, where PRINTING United Expo association partners, such as the Association of Independent Carton and Corrugators, Paperboard Packaging Council, Flexible Packaging Association, and TLMI will all be on hand showcasing their exemplary awards, and will have representatives available to speak with those interested in learning more about membership and engagement. Additionally, on the show floor, the newest technology in packaging will be shown from leading companies Agfa, Durst, EFI, Epson, Fujifilm, Heidelberg, HP, INX, Kongsberg, Nazdar, RMGT, Xeikon, Zünd, and so many more.
Latin American (LATAM) Pavilion
PRINTING United Expo attendees will also have the opportunity to meet with distributors in the designated LATAM Pavilion on the show floor. CONLATINGRAF, the leading association in the graphic arts business community, will be on-site to help attendees make connections with the most influential businesses in the market space.
To celebrate being together again, registered attendees are invited to a special series of Community Receptions taking place the first night of the Expo on Wednesday, Oct. 6 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. In the true spirit of convergence, attendees can attend any, or all, of the receptions in the following areas: apparel, Canadian, commercial/publishing, functional printing, graphics/wide-format, graphics installation, in-plant; Latin American; mailing and fulfillment; and package and label printer/converter.
Education for the Masses
In addition to the excitement on the show floor, leading educational sessions will be accessible online during Expo Preview, on-site in Orlando during Expo Live, and after the event during the Expo Wrap-Up.
Featured sessions include topics covering economic trends and outlook analysis to equip printers with the necessary information to understand issues that have affected their businesses from the pandemic, and how to navigate challenges; growth markets and opportunities by market segment; planning for profitability; sales and marketing insights; and convergence and diversification. A dedicated track of sessions will also be presented exclusively in Spanish.
Denise Gustavson is the Editorial Director and Special Projects Editor for the Printing & Packaging Group, which includes Printing Impressions, packagePRINTING, In-plant Graphics and Wide-Format Impressions magazines, among other brands. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Wide-Format Impressions.