The ongoing shortage of paper and the additional rise in prices for printing inks, printing plates and energy have presented online print shops with major challenges in the last quarter of 2021. Although most of them were able to keep their prices stable for a long time during the year, there are now signs of a turnaround: Online print prices are on the rise, across almost all product groups and suppliers. This is according to the latest ZOPI, the Zipcon Online Print Price Index.
The Zipcon Online Print Price Index is compiled quarterly and evaluated by zipcon. The data basis for the survey is a shopping cart of the leading online print companies, which includes the most important product categories in the industry. The figures are queried on a weekly basis and are used to form monthly average prices. The Zipcon Online Print Price Index thus reflects the real price development in the industry.
The most pressing problem, even in the fourth quarter of 2021, is the shortage of paper. After all, paper is not just any consumable – it is the basis and main component of most print products. It is not without reason that paper usually accounts for half of the printing costs. And without paper, there is no print product – regardless of whether a job is on the books or not.
The longer the shortage of raw materials continues, the more the situation comes to a head. Above all, print shops that have signed long-term contracts with their customers are facing serious problems because the cost increases on the production side have long since eaten up any planned buffer. This means that a previously lucrative order quickly becomes an extra cost.
Although print shops often found it difficult to pass on price increases to their customers in the past, this now seems to be inevitable. Especially in view of the fact that ink and plate manufacturers are now also raising their prices – not to mention the energy costs in general that are already in force and have been announced. All this can be seen more and more in the price development in online printing. This continues the development that was already indicated in the previous ZOPI.
Situation in the printing industry
In general, it can be said that companies in the printing industry continue to struggle to varying degrees with the effects of the Corona pandemic. While business is booming among label and packaging producers, other companies – mainly from the commercial print sector – have downsized or had to close down following a lack of orders and falling sales. At the fall conference of the Initiative Online Print, on the other hand, many companies from the online print sector reported an upturn in orders.
In the latest ZOPI, which covers the period up to and including December 31, 2021, an individual analysis of the 10,000 flyers (DIN A5, printed on both sides, 4/4 color, glossy, 135g) reveals an increasing price level – even though two suppliers are still calling prices that are even lower than the value in the first ZOPI survey in June 2020. A look at the entire shopping cart reveals an even clearer picture: Here, prices have started to rise for all manufacturers surveyed.
At Unitedprint, which moved its online store carrying the same name to the freshly launched flagship brand print24 at the end of December 2021, the price for the entire shopping cart at the end of December is plus 26.87% above the initial value of November 2020. When looking at flyers separately, the price index has risen continuously since October 2020 and is now 31.26% above Unitedprint’s initial value of June 2020. At Redprintgroup, which has been considered in the ZOPI since January 2021, the price index also went up significantly; namely by more than 11% in total. At 1.31% at the end of December 2021, it is even slightly above the January 2021 starting value for the first time but remains the smallest deviation from the reference value in the ZOPI observation. And Flyeralarm, whose price for 10,000 flyers from February to September 2021 was constant at -11.23% compared to the starting value, has also readjusted: At the end of the year, they were only -5.43% below the starting value. This still means a significantly lower level than at the start of our ZOPI, but the trend towards higher selling prices can also be seen here.
Apart from the two downward outliers Flyeralarm and Flyerunited, the price index for flyers is clearly up, averaging 9.44%.
At the end of the fourth quarter, the price index for the entire supplier basket was up an average of 13.30% on its first survey in November 2020. This is hardly surprising, given that the average prices in December 2021 are all higher than the reference value from November of the previous year. As already mentioned, the biggest upward change here has been at Unitedprint/print24, while the smallest change – at 4.89% compared with the starting value – has been at Flyeralarm. In between are Redprintgroup with 5.29%, Onlineprinters with 8.04%, Onlinedrucken with 14.66%, Wir machen Druck with 14.70% and Saxoprint with 18.62%.
Christmas business provided a boost
The good news is that demand for print products has picked up again in some market segments. One driver of this was, not least, the Christmas business. However, after several months of constant or even lower sales prices, all online printers covered by ZOPI are now tightening the price screw and passing on the increased costs to end customers. However, the next few weeks and months will show whether a plateau has already been reached at the current level – or whether sales prices will have to be raised further.