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Need To Know

Growth Areas for Print

In this ever-changing industry, it’s important to have your finger on the pulse when it comes to understanding where it is going next. Summer Brooks explores some of the key growth areas for print

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Printed décor has been identified as a key growth area

Staying on trend

We talk about growth areas in print and often we are talking about emerging trends within the industry, either driven by market or technology, or both. So, what are the main growth areas for print at the moment and how can print-service-providers capitalise on these areas?

Xerox has long been a pioneer of technology innovation and at its recent Investor Day, the firm outlined its own plans to gain traction in high-growth markets. Kevin O’Donnell, marketing manager for graphic communications at Xerox, says print must work harder now than ever before in order to be noticed. “Traditionally, vertical print segments have offered opportunity for growth,” he comments. “In areas like packaging, where digital adoption is still relatively low and changing market demand positions digital capabilities of shorter runs, faster turnaround, and variable content, there is still an opportunity for growth.

O Factoid: The digital textile printing market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.6% between 2019 and 2023, with clothing being the largest application sector for inkjet printing (Smithers Pira, 2018). O

“However, in 2019 print must work much harder to be noticed. For innovative and forward-thinking print businesses, all areas of the market offer opportunity for growth. This is driven by what we call CMYK+ at Xerox, which looks for the value-add, the differentiator, and the revenue generator in all print-based works.”

Marcus Timson entered the world of print through exhibitions, having a hand in growing the global outreach of FESPA when he joined as marketing director in 2006. Since then, he has moved into consulting the industry alongside Frazer Chesterman with their new firm, FM Future. “The markets that our previous industrial print surveys have always indicated as presenting growth opportunities are décor and packaging,” comments Timson. “I think the reason for this is quite simple. They are both markets that are influenced by consumer behaviour, and digital printing is therefore well positioned to help.”

A study by Smithers Pira in 2017 identified several areas of print as the fastest growing, including textiles, décor and laminates.


That same study estimates that the global printed textile market produces over 32 billion square metres of output each year. A glance around the halls at this year’s FESPA Global Print Expo and it was clear to see many companies competing to innovate in textile printing – be it dye-sublimation or direct-to-garment – everyone is seeking high quality printed garments and textiles. Personalisation is a key trend that is driving growth in this area, as many PSPs are moving into offering services like t-shirt printing on-site – either for a one off order or as part of a full package for businesses looking to kit out their staff in branded uniforms alongside traditional printed stationery.

The textiles market continues to grow and is expected to grow to €4.9bn (£4.22bn) by 2023

Whilst screen printing is still a popular method of decorating garments, the innovations in technology within textile printing has seen many print businesses prioritise investments. HP recently announced its move into the dye-sublimation arena with the Stitch S series, and already the firm has sold out of its existing units. FESPA itself recently launched a new sportswear event to cater to this sector of the market. Although textiles printing is considered a mature market, digital textile printing forms less than 5% of the industry according to a recent study by Smithers Pira, presenting an opportunity for PSPs looking to target a share.


“For décor, there is clearly a commercial segment with short-run wallpapers and textiles,” says Timson. “There is also a long-run industrial model for flooring and walls. If you are a wide-format printer and own the right technology, then you have the opportunity of branching out into decor for the short-run commercial segment. You will have to learn about printing onto wallpaper, as well as being able to sell into this new market. It’s not as simple as you may think, wallpaper has a very different function to POS displays for instance.”

However, as Timson warns, work in décor may stall, as cycles are less frequent than they are with POS (point-of-sale). “This is a creative market and hoteliers, retailers, restaurateurs and leisure complexes are increasingly keen to create stand out experiences,” he comments. “And it is likely they will like a local supplier.  But the issue that a wide-format printer will discover is that the frequency of change is really slow when compared with POS. Although hotels redecorate more frequently than ever, the cycle is still a minimum of three years. That means it could be famine or feast for this type of work.”

Innovations in digital textile printing continue to propel it towards growth

Timson says to make décor a profitable revenue stream, printers must be patient. He comments: “You will have to build momentum by pushing a lot in this segment and be prepared to be patient too, as it will take time to get established. If you’re used to POS production where orders come in all the time, then this is not the same.”


Packaging has been identified as another growth area for print, as technology develops to allow for more embellishments – which is appealing to brands looking to reflect a luxury feel with their products. Timson explains: “For packaging, there are labels, flexible packaging, and corrugated and folding carton packaging as well as the option to inkjet directly onto shapes. These are industrial markets and inkjet and digital will play a role that is complementary to analogue.

“We are starting to see a number of examples of hybrid machines that have inkjet ‘print bars’ integrated that afford them the flexibility of digital with the economies of scale with inkjet. But these are being pitched into the traditional packaging market. And breaking into this segment, if you do not already have an established business channel and capability, would be bold to say the least. Packaging is for sure a key market of the future and at Drupa we will see a lot of tech designed for this huge market.”

Demands for more luxurious packaging is driving growth for PSPs

The Xerox Iridesse has allowed Hobs Repro to offer impactful finishes including metallics, white and clear varnish – making for ideal solutions to the luxury packaging industry and for applications where adding value to the print is essential. “They have recently launched a highly featured book, Spellbound, which features embellishments and enhancements that include AR, Microtext, UV text and NFC which have generated high demand,” says O’Donnell. He explains that being able to offer metallics, as well as clear and white is unique: “This combination provides printers, designers and creatives with the tools to explore new and eye-catching opportunities across the whole span of the market – whether it is books with embellished covers or eye-catching packaging that uses iridescent colours to attract consumers.”

Brands are seeking more extravagant solutions for packaging to reflect the quality of the product

Timson adds that adopting inkjet technology for packaging allows printers greater freedom to adapt quickly. He explains: “The frequency of change, the opportunity to version, and late stage customisation all add up to some compelling reasons to adopt inkjet. However, the supply chains are long, the volumes huge and disrupting that isn’t easy. What we are seeing is that inkjet has taken its time here in part due to the technical barriers, with the degree of difficulty printing onto substrates such as plastic film, but also because of a misunderstanding (from converters) as to what digital should and could do.

The frequency of change, the opportunity to version, and late stage customisation all add up to some compelling reasons to adopt inkjet

“This is changing, but we won’t see this growing in leaps and bounds for a few years yet. Labels are already using inkjet, and corrugated is beginning to show signs of acceleration. Direct-to-shape is taking its time, but for those who are patient, it will happen. But the big deal will be flexible packaging and the developing community is working very hard to solve the technical problems.”

Engage, then automate

So, how can you successfully move into a growth area? “As boring as it might sound, by listening to customers, by engaging with their problems and delivering solutions to them on a strategic and not just a transactional level,” says Timson. “Seeing their pain points, understanding their customer needs as well. It is not rocket science, but it still surprises me at how transactional the printing industry is, and not at all solution led.”

Wherever your business is looking to go next, whether its with a new investment or a move into one of these growth areas, it is important to make sure that automating the workflow is prioritised, as O’Donnell concludes: “If print businesses are striving to add value with CMYK+ work, then they must ensure that any value gained externally is not lost internally by slow and analogue processes. Digital connects and integrates, and print providers must ensure that automation is at the heart of the manufacturing process.”

The market for printed interiors is growing as large-format print quality continues to improve

Timson agrees that automation is key and offers his advice to printers looking to branch out: “Being able to manage data and automate has to be crucial to any paper printer in terms of ensuring that they future-proof their business. Then adopting new tech that delivers new solutions. I would encourage any printer to take a measured step into the unknown, try things out, fail a bit, but by attempting new things you are far more likely to find a good niche. You don’t have to bet the entire farm, but you can bet on a field or two.

“And collaborate, work with suppliers – they are obviously selling something, but they want you to succeed. More is achieved in collaboration than in isolation. Lastly, attend events, be curious, ask questions and if one path ends in a dead end, just start another.”

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