BPIF Printing Outlook survey finds 31% of UK printers benefited from an increase in volume offers in Q3, versus 15% that saw a drop; more than one third of companies in survey said output had risen in three-month period due to increase in new business

CHICAGO , November 7, 2013 (press release) – Improvement in orders and output achieved - confidence high for a strong seasonal boost.

The third quarter lived up to UK printer expectations according to the results of the latest BPIF Printing Outlook survey. More firms saw a pick up in demand rather than a fall with 31% benefiting from an increase in the volume of orders versus 15% that suffered a drop - the balance between ups and downs was the highest for 11 quarters and the best Q3 reading for nine years. The results mimic the forecast three months earlier and suggest that the UK printing industry is recovering in line with the general economy.

It was a similar story in terms of production; in fact, the results were even more positive. More than a third of companies that took part in the survey stated that output had risen in the three-month period thanks to a rise in new business.

The fourth quarter traditionally tends to be a busier period and many printers are confident that demand will improve through to the year end. Almost half of all firms expect levels of new business to rise which compares favourably with just 6% that foresees deterioration. The prediction is the most optimistic for three years with more firms actually anticipating improvement than stability.

Confidence in the general state of trade in the industry is continuing to improve. For the second quarter running the number of firms that reported improved trading conditions outweighed those that saw a weaker sector. It would appear that the printing industry is in sync with the general mood among UK manufacturers that business prospects are improving. This is borne out by the fact that over half (54%) expect further recovery during the fourth quarter; the highest level for five years. While this is partly due to expectations of a seasonal pick-up, it also reflects rising confidence in the market generally.

Kathy Woodward, BPIF CEO, said, 'It's great news that productive output and confidence is returning to the printing industry. Not just for companies operating within the industry but the wider economy from which our varied clients come. It's also important for us to report back that the BPIF works hard to minimise the impact of issues that our Printing Outlook survey highlights. For example, pre-packs and energy costs - we remain active in seeking to reform the legislation on pre-pack administrations and recently met the Government appointed review chairman. We‟re also aware of the impact of rising energy costs so we‟ve been collaborating with other trade associations to review the Government‟s Electricity Market Reform Bill and influence energy policy, as well as working with specialists in energy management so that we can get best practice advice and guidance for BPIF members.'

Summary of key findings:
Orders and output and rose as expected in Q3 2013 with further improvement anticipated.
Sentiment improving as trading conditions pick up.
Higher rate of capacity utilised with knock-on effect for lead times.
Increased activity expected to boost employment levels.
Cut-throat competition leads to further pressure on selling prices for some.
Costs generally stabilised in the third quarter. Increases in energy prices are the main concern for Q4.
Stable margins reported by the vast majority; but pressure remains to squeeze margins further.
Pick up in the export market after weak Q2.
More investment earmarked for training and innovation.
Improvement in bank lending noted by some; but bad debt, late payment and extended payment terms on the rise.

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