You are not alone: Survey reveals April Covid sales collapse

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The April horror month for print saw two thirds of commercial printers experience falls in sales of at least 30 per cent, with a quarter experiencing falls of between 50-70 per cent, and 15 per cent seeing sales plummet by more than 70 per cent, according to a new survey by Ascent Partners.

April: plenty of cleaning and maintenance, but not much printing
April: plenty of cleaning and maintenance, but not much printing

Print businesses finding themselves struggling with idle presses in the Covid era are the norm, with the survey also showing two thirds of commercial printers expect an average drop in sales of 50 per cent over the next six months.

According to the survey, over the next six months 42 per cent of commercial printers expect their sales to drop between 30 and 50 per cent. But, 16 per cent said it would fall by between 50-70 per cent, while 4 per cent are expecting a 70 per cent or more plunge.

Accommodating their forecast slump 64 per cent intend to “trade on” and adjust staff levels to match sales/production, 9 per cent will look for opportunities to acquire; 10 per cent will downsize and outsource more; 12 per cent aim to amalgamate, merge or collaborate with others; and six per cent will sell the business. No businesses expect to close.

For those statistically minded, this sample provides a 90 per cent confidence level with a margin of error (confidence interval) of plus or minus 10 per cent. Some 82 per cent of the respondents were commercial printers (A3 – A1 offset and digital).

Labels and packaging sector fared better: Richard Rasmussen, Ascent Partners

Richard Rasmussen, CEO of Ascent Partners, said, “The results reflect anecdotal feedback I have received in speaking to commercial printers, and my industry network over the past six weeks.”

March was the start of Covid-19. In that month 29 per cent of printers surveyed said sales were steady, and around 22 per cent were improving. The falls is sales were not nearly to the extent experienced from April onwards. Most of the other half of the respondents fell into the 10-50 per cent fall in sales categories.

The full extent of Covid-19 was starting to be experienced in April. Now only 6 per cent of respondents had sales increases, with two thirds having falls of more than 30 per cent. Some 28 per cent had falls of 30-50 per cent, with 24 per cent falling between 50-70 per cent and 15 per cent seeing falls of more than 70 per cent.

Rasmussen said, “Anecdotally, the packaging and labels sectors has fared far better than commercial printers in March and April, and many are looking to be only marginally down in sales over the next six months. Some reported a spike in sales due to the supermarket product hoarding period (March/April).

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