Since February 2003, Semper International has provided a quarterly survey offering estimates of trends in the printing and graphics industries. To prevent bias, survey questions — both qualitative and quantitative — are designed by Semper corporate partner Cvent. Survey participants include more than 300 small, medium and large printing companies; both clients and prospects of Semper International. Participants provide data on revenue and hiring as well as estimated outlooks on future trends. Data is requested from a random sample and are not screened. To preserve confidentiality, individual company information is not part of the tabulation.
Semper revamped its survey report this quarter creating a more stylized report and offering more in-depth analysis. "Over ten years ago, Semper recognized that our experience in staffing allowed us to see economic trends affecting the allied industries we serve. Staffing tends to be a leading economic indicator and in our 20+ years of watching this economic cycle, we have come to understand the labor market a bit,” explains David Regan, CEO, Semper International. “While our clients’ privacy is always a paramount concern, we believe using the aggregate survey data to help analyze common themes to be beneficial.
“When we first launched the survey, our goal was to continue in that vein, aggregating this information to the industry as a public service for free. Over the years, as the survey has become more popular, and we have watched the industry itself change, we have refined and improved our questions and processes while still providing the service gratis,” adds Regan. ”This year, based on survey feedback, we have decided to take it a step further, by aggregating the data into an executive summary with key insights we pulled from this data, and advanced our design and presentation to welcome our increasingly graphic digital audience.”
The new survey offers twelve critical insights that Semper saw in the survey data. Insights include that current revenues remain relatively low, although firms are beginning to report positive revenue growth; despite a hiccup, firms remain bullish on sales growth; and while still troubling, the overall economy Is marginalizing as a threat.
More specifically, the most recent survey indicates positive outlook and improved sales:
• 74% of companies surveyed reported a profitable Q1; the third quarter in a row that more than 70% of firms saw profits rise. Looking at the various profit centers over time, it’s clear that, while dispersed, firms are finding the greatest margins in digital – via either content prep, reproduction or distribution.
• 40% of survey respondents reported an increase in revenue over last quarter—a 5% increase and the first quarter over quarter increase in a year.
• 64% of companies expect sales to increase through the remainder of Q2, compared to 48% last quarter—an indication that companies are more optimistic and anticipating sustained sales volumes through the month of May, and beyond.
• Emerging from the trend lines is also an indication that the economy (42%) is becoming less of a threat than it was during the deep end of the recession. In fact, for the second quarter in a row, more than half of our reporting firms cited something other than the economy as their top concern, as lower priced competitors (24%), rising operating costs (13%) and technical upgrade expenses (11%) are also coming to the fore.
• 29% of respondents indicated that hiring levels will increase—a slight drop from last quarter.
• Healthcare remains the fastest growing component of cost, but decreased sharply to 37% from 54%. Base pay jumped 11 points to 22%.
• Referrals continue to be the most popular way to find employees. Use of online ads is increasing.