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BPIF predicts a stable Q4 for industry

Performance analysis of the third quarter of 2023 shows a downturn in industry output

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The online trading trends survey was taken by 111 companies with a combined turnover of just under £1.3bn

The British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF) has released its Printing Outlook Q4 2023 report, featuring analysis on industry turnover, business concerns, capacity, costs, pay reviews, and more in regard to the third quarter (Q3) of the year, and predictions for the final quarter of the year (Q4).

The report shows that the UK’s printing and printed packaging industry struggled in Q3 as an optimistic expectation for output return proved fruitless as many businesses experienced a drop in print output.

The fragile economy along with lingering concerns over inflation and the cost-of-living have clearly impacted business as companies continue to control costs, increase productivity, and look for new opportunities.

The Outlook survey reveals that one-third (33%) of printers increased output levels in Q3 while another third held steady, meaning 34% experienced a decline in output levels.

Statistics for actual and forecaster industry output between 2020 and 2023

More analysis from Q3 revealed more companies decreased employment levels, as recruitment has been a big concern over the year. On average price levels decreased despite a small majority managing to hold steady.

The research reveals that margins have been squeezed as downward pressures on prices continue to offset any benefits derived from cost reductions. 

Concern over sales levels has now become the top concern from businesses surveyed, overtaking competitor pricing, which still was selected by 53% of respondents demonstrating that print businesses are having to adapt and work differently to maintain and grow sales.

Up from 35% in the last quarter, wage pressures was the third most ranked concern at 52% as many companies conducted pay reviews earlier in the year and upcoming increases in minimum wages have had a knock-on effect on concerns.

Speaking about the survey, Kyle Jardine, BPIF economist, comments: “As part of our continued commitment to driving sustainability improvement in the industry, we once again added a sustainability research section to the survey, building on the initial introduction six months ago.

“Over half of respondents now tell us that they are measuring their carbon emissions, many more than reported doing so back in April. I would strongly encourage BPIF members to download the full report, set aside a few minutes to check out the contents, and consider responding to the next survey in January. This research really does make a difference to how we can represent our industry.”  

Top business concerns selected by those surveyed by the BPIF

Forecasts for Q4 are for an improvement in output growth but largely due to less companies experiencing declining growth as opposed to a significant seasonal boost.

Falls in inflation and a lowering of interest rate expectations is expected to improve business confidence and performance expectations. 

BPIF chief executive, Charles Jarrold, says: “It has been a challenging year so far, but it is pleasing to see an uplift in confidence and expectations for the final quarter, even if it’s not quite in line with what might be considered a normal seasonal boost.”

Output growth is expected to increase for 36% of businesses while 44% predict that they will be able to hold output levels steady, leaving 20% of respondents who expect out to fall in Q4. 

Normal circumstances would expect a stronger seasonal boost yet as an under-performing economy, cost-controls, and digitalisation in certain sectors continue to dominate the narrative with early 2024 also expected to be dominated by wage pressures and inflation ramifications.

If you’d like to share news or opinions with us feel free to email at news@printmonthly.co.uk or join in with the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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