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Shop Talk: Screen Printers Defy the Odds

(August/September 2016) posted on Tue Sep 06, 2016

The numbers are in, and the verdict is: 'We're kicking ass.'

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By Andy MacDougall

I’m the last person who should be trying to extrapolate meaning from statistics. Half the time, I don’t believe people could be as stupid as the polling shows; the other 60 percent of the time, I get fixated on the numbers and how things just don’t seem to add up.

The most recent industry poll by SGIA on the state of the textile business suggested to me that there was a slowdown in the incursion of digital, and growth in analog printing. That reflects the reality I run into, with small(er) shops and startups all wanting to screen print, and a real demand at the local level for screen-printed garments and various otherproducts your ATP (average textile printer) can make. A number of hand printers in my circle graduated to automatics in the last two years to deal with increases in business. The strongest ones don’t do outside work – they print mostly their own designs on their own clothing lines. Our little studio, which does absolutely no advertising, gains a couple of new customers each week. There seems to be a lot of demand out there for water-based, locally
made products.

The other cool thing, and this was also reflected in SGIA’s 2016 benchmarking reports, is that we, as an industry, are generally kicking ass. Only 12 percent of participating graphics companies reported zero or negative growth. That means 88 percent of them beat the rest of the North American economy, with approximately 13 percent growing anywhere from 30 percent to more than double their previous year’s sales.

Industrial printers showed flat or negative growth among one third of reporting companies. That’s the bad news; the good news is the other two thirds are growing. Some of the biggest opportunities are healthcare and electronics, and as long as we keep getting older and sicker, and need a new cellphone every half-year, there will continue to be new markets to expand into. Couple that with manufacturing decline in China, and both Trump and Clinton promising to increase American manufacturing (and being politicians, of course, we can believe everything they say), things look good for all the members of the specialty graphics family.


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