NARROW-WEB PRESS PURCHASE PAINS?
Fiscal anxiety may lead converters to delay press investments and additions. See below for a guide to narrow-web press series and their respective levels of investment.
by Jessica Millward, Associate Editor
THE "WAIT AND SEE" mentality has descended upon the narrow-web print set and its purse strings. While press manufacturers continued to heighten the graphic sophistication level of narrow-web presses in 2001 with improved press models, many converters may not consider capitalizing on those technology gains until the economic picture comes into focus.
Relatively, the narrow-web market is in a much better boat than many other printer segments. Printing Industries of America's (PIA) 2001 Ratios study pegs label printers as the most profitable specialty print market in 2001. The average profit rate (as percentage of sales) was 3.07 percent, but label printers reported a 5.53 percent profit.
Of course, sale quantity begs the bigger question. The PIA also polled printers about their customers' purchase plans for a recent Economic & Print Market Flash Report, and found that nearly 40 percent of customers planned to delay print orders for the next year.
The signs say converters are taking their customers' conservatism to heart. Printers have already taken steps to shore up their resources; the PIA Flash Report concluded 21.2 percent of printers have reduced business investment plans for 2002.
The label market has echoed those cautious spending sentiments. Advanced Web Technologies, which produces p-s labels, coupons, and decals, won't be investing in any new equipment in 2002, and President Duane Huberty affirms, "The economy has influenced our plans."
For narrow-web converter Belmark Inc., prudence seems the best tactic in uncertain economic times. Bruce Bell, president, says his company will add new press capabilities in 2002, but won't carry forth with every equipment purchase they had originally intended. "We have delayed some plans to purchase until we feel comfortable with the way the U.S. economy is going." Bell is guardedly optimistic about the future, however, and will re-implement previous purchase plans when the market has stabilized.