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JANUARY 2013



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What Will You Be Selling in 2018? . . .
thinking about the future for dealers

Sometimes we have to remember where we have been and gone to look ahead to see where we are going.

As we reach the year 2013, Dealer Communicator reflected on the changes in the industry that have evolved in the last 20 years or even longer and changed the printing industry forever. Remember, the campaign by industry organizations in the 1980's "Graphic Communications . . . They used to call it Printing" which reflected printers offered multimedia services such as CD creation and promotional video production along with their creative services, printing, finishing and mailing. Graphic Arts Dealers have had to adjust their businesses from an emphasis on supplies to offering software, proofing systems, wide/narrow digital printers and other digitally based equipment together with expanding their sales for traditional presses and a wide variety of finishing equipment.

The printing industry has always moved slowly to accept change. The dealers also took a bit of time to alter their businesses to reflect these changes. Not only have the products offered by dealers changed but the way business is done has changed as well. Where in 1990 few dealers had web sites or electronic means of selling and supporting customers, and used the old fashioned way of communicating through fax, phone and footwork, today customers are served mostly through email, online catalogs and web sites along with phone and to a lesser degree legwork. Buying online is a personal and company way to do business.

Jumping ahead, DC has speculated on the face of the printing industry or whatever it will be called in 2018 based on hints from the current trend lines. A few things are obvious:

Business Changes: the use of social media, email and video will continue to reduce the use of print to support sales and marketing materials although print will remain part of the package - just not as much being printed. For some dealers providing software and consulting services to help their customers move into multimedia is an opportunity today as well as the future years.

Prepress: Traditional technologies are already gone from this segment of the printing industry and have reshaped what dealers are selling today. Over the next 12 years what will change are software tools to fully automate the conversion of PDF's or other submittal formats to print ready files. Also, expect to see more phones to press connections as phones get smarter and everyone gets into the store and print business. Dealers could be a source for software to do the conversions along with providing consulting and training services as they did as digital prepress evolved.

The Pressroom - Over the next few years digital presses, especially ink jet, will replace many traditional offset presses. The key to digital being a replacement technology (like offset was for letterpress) is the cost of inks. The machine speeds and printed quality are close to or exceeds offset printing today but the cost per copy (ink and paper) is holding it back.

By 2018, this issue will be resolved. Dealers will continue to benefit from digital equipment sales especially product machines, expanding their market from traditional printing companies into wider corporate marketing and other do it yourself companies that find the convenience and cleaner operation of digital presses a benefit.

This represents a re-birth of the in-plant printing concept. We are already seeing this trend in the publishing industry where books are being printed on demand rather than being printed and stored in inventory. Also expect to see increased revenue from ink and toners as multiple manufacturing sources appear.

Substrates: Dealers have already benefited from the sales of materials for wide format printers and other products like magnetic and other specialized materials that will evolve for use in home decorating and other uses.

Finishing: As long as there is print there is a need for finishing equipment. The trends indicate that work is being done to simplify finishing equipment and to allow inline connections to digital presses. Offline machines are also adding methods to improve registration and otherwise speed up setup and increase run speeds along with reducing costs. This can be a strong market for dealers with the continuing growth of digital presses and the continuing need to bind, insert or otherwise finish printed materials.

The bottom line is that Graphic Arts Dealers need to think ahead. While thinking about what you will be selling in 2018 is probably impossible, looking at the trends with your customers and where additional business will come from in the next 5 years is a must. There is no question that the printing industry many of us have grown up in is gone. Some of us have fought the changes with skepticism, resistance and unbelief. We also know printers and dealers who did not survive the shift. As you move into a new year be aware of the changes around you and how you are affected. This should lead to a business plan that will control your future instead of leading to your fiscal cliff. DC

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Fichera Publications · 1919 N. State Rd. 7, Suite 202· Margate, FL 33063 · 800-327-8999· 954-971-4360· Fax: 954-971-4362 · email us


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