22 January 2017 Business

Government statistics highlight fall in print industry

Print's decline as an advertising medium is highlighted in a government report where book printing provides the main bright spot.

The UK printing industry shrank further in 2015, according to just published government figures. However, the rate of decline is slowing as once again book printing held up while other segments fell.

Compared to 2014, the total turnover of UK print in 2015 was £10,624.5 million against £10,678.6 million. Sales of printed products accounted for £6,830.0 million (£1,173.5 million) of this.

To this can be added sales of £775.2 million (£787.3 million) from prepress services and £205.9 million (£204.3 million) from bindery services, increasing the total revenue for print by almost another £1 billion.

The figures come from the Office of National Statistics’ Prodcom report detailing sales of UK manufacturing industries for comparison with the same industries in other EU member countries.

This charts the continuing fall in the UK printing industry. In 2008, total turnover of commercial print was £12,468.9 million. Figures for 2016 are not yet available but will almost certainly show further slippage.

The comparisons against the 2008 figures show the most dramatic changes. The sales value of daily newspapers drops from £445.8 million in 2008 to £137.6million in 2014 and to £122.0 million in 2015. Periodicals fall from £1,248.3 million in value from print to £677.3 million in 2014 and to £573.1 million in 2015. With the collapse of Polestar in 2016, the next set of figures is likely to report a further drop.

The shift away from print for advertising products is equally stark. Prodcom recorded £2,040.4 million in sales of advertising brochures and materials in 2008. By 2014 this had fallen to £1,614.3 million and to £1,455.3 million in 2015. Catalogues fell from £559.1 million in 2008 to £353.4 million in 2014 and again to £295.0 million in 2015. Single-sheet flyers dropped to £454.2 million in 2015 from £455.1 million a year earlier, a sign of some bottoming out compared with £650.1 million in the peak year of 2008.

Not all sectors are as gloomy. Sales of greetings cards rose to £80.9 million in 2014 compared to £79.6 million in 2008, but fell back to £72.3 million in 2015. Photo products leapt from £19.0 million in 2008 to reach £39.5 million in 2014 and again to £41.4 million in 2015. Letterheads and stationery also increased from £1,154.8 million in 2008 to £1,344.9 million in 2015, this slightly down on the previous year’s tally of £1,394.9 million.

However, printed books in the UK has been the star performer for print despite the challenge of the ebook. Sales of £581.9 million in 2008 had become £926.2 million in 2014 and increased again to £929.4 million in 2015. This does not yet include children’s books which have regained popularity thanks to personalised editions. Prodcom has sales of £2.8 million in 2008, but has since ceased trying to measure their value separately, lumping them together in the ‘other’ category.

UK paper production has also been hit, falling from £3,485.6 million in 2008 to £2,549.7 million in 2015, buoyed by interest in packaging grades.

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Print volumes down

Print volumes down

The migration of advertising away from print has helped drive volumes down as the industry continues to shrink. An increase in book volumes is the highlight.

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Turing Test
Roger Bassnett - 4 years ago

RIP The industry I was proud to become an apprentice in in 1958. A proud industry of tradesmen who handed down skills from generation to generation. Ink in the veins was a way of life - Gone forever.