There was little movement in average online print prices in the third quarter of the year: While they again settled at a very slightly higher level in the flyer segment, with a peak in July, the average prices for the shopping cart in Q3 were slightly higher than in Q2, but still well below the values for the previous year. As always, the picture is more differentiated when looking at individual items. The current ZOPI, the zipcon Onlineprint Price Index, provides more details.
After there was not a single provider in the second quarter that lowered its prices for the products surveyed, most online print shops were able to maintain their prices in the current period under review, and a few even lowered them slightly. The mixture of slightly higher and slightly lower prices is sometimes a reflection of the overall situation in the German economy.
Inflation falls, as do paper prices
While inflation reached +4.5% in September (after 6.1% in August and 6.2% in July), its lowest level since the outbreak of the Ukraine war, and the downward trend in paper prices also continued, the mood remains tense: Not only do energy prices in general remain higher than a year ago – the Federal Statistical Office reported a 1% increase for September, following an 8.3% increase in August – but among these, electricity prices in particular continued to climb sharply, up +11.1% compared with September 2022. Combined with price increases in other areas – including food – people in Germany are noticeably less inclined to buy and companies less inclined to invest.
According to the joint forecast by the leading economic research institutes, economic output will contract by -0.6% in the current year, more than expected at the beginning of the year, and forecasts for the coming year have already been revised downwards slightly. According to the institutes, Germany is still in recession. According to the DIW economic barometer, new orders from Germany and abroad remain at a low level, and industrial production also fell further in September.
Business conditions in the printing industry
The overall gloomy mood is also being felt by print shops. Although the economic telegram published by the Bundesverband Druck und Medien (German Printing and Media Industries Federation) in September indicates that the downward trend in the assessment of the business situation, the business climate and business expectations has stopped and stabilized at a low level, this does not hide the fact that the indicators recorded their lowest values in the current year in the third quarter of 2023. A lack of orders and a deterioration in the earnings situation led to the more pessimistic assessment of companies. However, the business situation and business expectations were assessed worse in the same quarter a year ago.
Consumer sentiment in the dumps
People in Germany are keeping a much tighter rein on their money and foregoing one purchase or another – including online, as bevh, the Bundesverband E-Commerce und Versandhandel (German E-Commerce and Distance Selling Trade Association) found in its latest surveys. According to the survey, online sales of goods fell by 13.9 percent to 17.05 billion euros across the industry from the beginning of July to the end of September this year compared with the same quarter in 2022. In nominal terms, they would thus rank even below the level of the same period in 2019. Looking ahead to the rest of the year, the association is also not very optimistic, as it assumes that there will still be no change from the previous negative trend.
How online print shops are dealing with the situation
Online print shops also have to deal with the mixed situation of stagnating incoming orders and further increases in energy costs on a daily basis. As the ZOPI, the zipcon Onlineprint Price Index for quarter 3/2023 shows, average prices have moved only slightly: for flyers (run length 10,000, DIN A5 format, printed in four colors on both sides and on 135 g glossy paper), the average increase at the end of September was + 28.79 %, only slightly below the peak value of + 30.55 % reached in July, and at the same time significantly above the value for September 2022 (+ 25.17 %).
Detailed analysis of flyers
After there was not a single supplier at the end of June who lowered prices in the flyer product segment compared with the end of March, the situation changed again in July, August and September. The price remained the same for five suppliers, and rose again for three – but three suppliers have already passed on the lower energy prices to their customers and reduced their prices.
They rose most significantly at Vistaprint, from -2.8% in June to +21.48% in September. Compared with the ZOPI index value from summer 2020, however, Unitedprint/print24 still holds the top spot for the highest price increase. Although the ZOPI shows a decline from +87.65% in June to +75.56% in September, no other provider has recorded increases like this since the launch of the ZOPI. The lowest deviation from the index value is found at Primus-Print, with another constant +5.0%.
Druckdiscount24 and Onlineprinters, on the other hand, have lowered their prices: while the index value for flyer orders at Onlineprinters was +36.99% (June: +37.67%), Druckdiscount24 is charging -5.67%, less than in June (+1.97%) and less than in its first survey in January 2023.
On the other hand, constant prices compared to June 2023 are offered by Wir machen Druck with +34.26%, Saxoprint with +48.96%, Onlinedrucken with +29.13%, Redprintgroup with +34.70% and Primus-Print with +5.0%. Higher prices than in June 2023 were recorded by ZOPI at Vistaprint, as already described, as well as at Flyeralarm with +27.71% (June: +22.97%) and Print Kit with +8.52% (June: -0.31%).
Detailed view of the shopping cart
The prices charged for the shopping cart containing 10,000 flyers in DIN A5 format, brochures (32 pages, DIN A4, stitched, printed on both sides) and business cards (4/4 color, without finishing) were similar. The average change compared to the first survey of this product category in November 2020 was +26.61%. At the end of June, this figure had still been +24.94%, and in September 2022 it was +26.60%, i.e. at a similar level to this year.
Looking at the details, a brief summary paints the following picture: While four providers were able to keep prices constant compared to June 2023: Wir machen Druck with +37.11%, Saxoprint with +37.96%, Primus-Print with +4.98% and Redprintgroup with +10.92%. At Print-Kit, one product could no longer be ordered in the required configuration, which is why no September figures suitable for comparison could be collected for this provider. However, the August 2023 figure of -15.67% was significantly lower than the figure for June (+5.08%).
Prices for the shopping cart rose in September at Flyeralarm by +3.64% (June: +2.65%) and at Onlineprinters by +38.00% (June: +35.89%). On the other hand, they fell at Druckdiscount24 with +6.21% (June: +8.83%) as well as at Onlineprinters with +32.26% (June: +35.67%) compared to the start of the shopping cart ZOPI in November 2020. At Unitedprint/print24, the shopping cart was also cheaper in September than in June, although the index value of +68.96% (June: +70.32%) still marks the top value in the overall comparison of the shopping cart.
What is striking about the shopping basket is that, while prices have remained more or less at the same level on average across all suppliers throughout the year, the curve took a more pronounced upward turn again in September. I wonder whether the start of the Christmas season has already played a role in this.
Will the economic circumstances described above result in lucrative Christmas sales this year? Of course, that is impossible to predict at this point in time. All that is certain is that the next few months will remain volatile and will not be easy.
But I remain firmly convinced that online print shops, in particular, have the tools to emerge stronger from these challenging times. And who knows to what extent artificial intelligence will play a role here in the future? After all, we all experienced in the early 2000s that online print companies are predestined to adapt new technologies quickly and use them for their own benefit.