Five industry experts scope out the year ahead.
Florek: I think the most important thing for “early adopters” and “wait and seers” alike is to stand apart from their competition and create a stable business niche. Given the state of the economy, it’s likely too late for print providers to adopt a technology that would change their fortunes. However, those shops that adopted new technology before the downturn are likely reaping the benefits of greatly expanding their capabilities. On the other hand, firms that adopt new technology should be wary of expanding their production capacity in a market that would not support it.
Greene: Obviously it is better to be first-to-market, but to borrow a term: “Pioneers can end up with a lot of arrows in their backs.” To me, the key is to establish close relationships with others in the industry in order to share ideas and information; work closely and candidly with your suppliers; and stay in front of your customers as often as you can without annoying them.
In the past six months, a much higher percentage of shops’ customers seem to have become all about price—everything else can fall by the wayside. Are you seeing this?
Florek: Definitely. In fact, you probably could point to the collapse of Lehman Brothers as the moment confidence tanked and price became the preeminent business concern. The obsession with cost-cutting extends to streamlining production and paring back the cost of labor. Price has also been a leading factor in purchase decisions of late, affecting everything from hardware to media. For example, we’ve seen an awakening of interest in aftermarket ink (although end users may be merely interested and remain loyal to their OEM ink). Once the economy recovers, this behavior may relax, but the possibility exists that lower prices will commoditize some wide-format markets.