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Commentary & Analysis
Surviving “the Printing Industry’s Perfect Storm”—and Its Aftermath
By Thomas J. Williams Published: April 9, 2012
The graphic communications industry has been under unprecedented pressure for the last decade, with the stage set during the 1990s as consolidators, fueled by easy money from an aggressive lending community, rolled up scores of commercial printing operations nationwide. Beginning in the early 2000s, many of these roll-ups came unglued as the synergies the consolidators pitched to lenders and the stockholders of the firms they acquired failed to materialize.
As many consolidators defaulted on the considerable debt they carried, these roll-ups began to fail as they were forced to file for bankruptcy protection and in many cases liquidation. As a result, many firms that took a bite of the consolidator’s apple often were shut down, liquidated or sold, or returned to former owners, many unable to survive in the long term.
The stage was set and the first clouds were formed for what would become the printing industry’s perfect storm. At the same time alternative electronic media were beginning to compete with ink on paper, new digital printing systems based on toner and inkjet were competing with traditional offset processes. As these trends accelerated and a dramatic transformation of the printing industry became inevitable, the economy contracted significantly, and the perfect storm gained momentum.
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