PPP Payments Outpace Stimulus Checks 2:1

Covid-19 “Take #2”

5-15-20 – The National Printing Research Council (NPRC) continues to serve the printing, mailing and sign industries with a series of statistical surveys designed to keep owners informed regarding major industry trends. Of course nothing has had a greater impact on our combined industries than the current Covid-19 Pandemic! (To download a 11-page PDF copy of this report click here.)

In fact, no single event in the past 100 years has had more impact on our industry than the current pandemic. As a result, NPRC launched its first Covid-19 Survey in mid-March and published the results on its website on March 26th. (Click here to read and download the previous report.)

It didn’t take long for it to become apparent that NPRC would need a second and most likely a third survey if we were to meet the needs of our industry. So on May 5th NPRC launched its 2nd survey called Covid-19 “Take #2.” 

The survey ran for seven days, closing on May 12th and attracted 253 participating firms, closely matching the 279 responses we received on our 1st survey about a month ago.

Stimulus Checks vs. PPP Disbursements

As a general rule, printers appear to have had far greater success in receiving PPP loans than they have in receiving their $1,200 stimulus checks by almost exactly a 2:1 rate. According to our data, and based upon 253 responses received between May 7-12, only 39% of survey respondents told us they had received their $1,200 checks, while 61% told us they were still waiting. Somewhat ironic considering no applications or forms were required for the latter while an application process was established for PPP disbursements.

As for PPP applications and disbursements, approximately 92% of printers told us they had applied for the Federal Government’s Payroll Protection Plan (PPP), and that 78% of those that had applied have already received the PPP funds.

Interesting too is that approximately 38% of the industry has applied for and received either an advance payment or full disbursement on their EIDL SBA Disaster Loan. (See Chart #18) Once again, contrast that with the fact that 61% of participants are still waiting for their stimulus checks. Granted, there are far more of the latter to be disbursed, but the disbursement process is much simpler and subject to far less variables than what can be a complex loan application.

Covid-19 & General Industries Trends

One of our first series of questions sought out participants and asked them to estimate or project the percent decline in total employees for three specific periods of time. We asked them about the number of employees currently employed as well as the number of employees they projected for two periods in the future. Below are the results uncovered as of May 12th:

Chart #1 – % Declines in Employment

As you can see (See Chart #1), it appears that many printers seem to be implying that the worst is possibly now behind us. The first two bars (average & median) reflect the decline in sales over a four-month (Jan-April),  however, most of the decline in staffing appears to have occurred in March and April, the last two months of that time-frame.

It is likely, but not assured, that in the next few months  we will look back on 2020 and view the March-April time-frame as the worst two-months of 2020. Of course, we still have no idea what May or June 2020 will bring, but the consensus seems to be “it can’t be any worse than what we have already seen.”

We also asked participants to predict the impact that Covid-19 will have on their employee staffing as it relates to both the first six months of 2020 as well as on total employment for all 12 months in 2020.

Chart #2 – Employees

Chart #2 above reflects answers to our survey question asking participants to tell us their current and projected staffing levels as we approach the end of the 1st six months of 2020 as well how we will finish out the year. Overall, it appears that owners are predicting that by year-end 2020 total staffing will have declined by approximately 13-17% from what it was in January 2020.

If you enjoy and appreciate reading research reports such as this, consider supporting NPRC by purchasing one or more of its research publications, or making a small financial contribution to NPRC via a PayPal donation to membership@printingresearch.org

Business As Usual?

Chart #3 provides the answers to the question, “Based upon state or county regulations or laws currently in effect, what is your current business status as of May 8, 2020?” According to our data, it appears that approximately 70% of the industry is back to “normal” in terms of being open for business. However, being open for business is not the same as a return to business as usual. Many participants told us that customers are simply staying home and are certainly not venturing outside to place orders.

Chart #3 – Current “open” or “closed” Status

With significant declines in raw business volume, something has to give, and we asked survey participants to tell us how they were handling their payroll and staffing demands in light of much lower sales. As you can see (Chart #4) approximately 46% told us they are currently paying employees full-pay.

Chart #4 – Employee Payroll Status

Payroll Status for Specific Firms –  Question #4 of our survey asked, “If you are temporarily closed, or operating under limited hours of operation, how are you handling payroll?” As you can see, 46% of those responding firms said they were continuing to pay employees at “full” pay. The remainder (remember these are firms that are still closed or operating under limited hours) turned to paying employees only for hours actually worked.

Employed vs. Furloughed? Question #5 asked respondents what percent of their total work forces is currently working at their physical plant as opposed to furloughed? Question #6 asked how many employees have been furloughed as a result of Covid-19. We clarified that question by noting that “furloughed” meant “temporarily sent home for a period of time without pay.” 

Chart #5-6 Employed or Furloughed?

Chart #5-6 illustrates that employers have, on average, retained approximately 73% of their work force. The bad news, of course, is that approximately 26% of the workforce in our industry has indeed been laid-off or furloughed and we suspect that most of them will never be rehired.

Healthcare Converage

Healthcare premiums and furloughed employees – What are owners doing in regards to continuing healthcare premiums for laid-off/furloughed employees was a popular question among owners who pay such for employees. For approximately 33% of participants, this question was not an issue since that coverage is not offered.

As you can see, at least as of May 8th, approximately 24% of employers continue to pay premiums for all employees. Unfortunately, approximately 11% of employers ceased (as of May 8 or before) paying healthcare premiums for inactive or furloughed employees.

Chart #7 – Handling Healthcare Premiums

Major Sales Declines Predicted

Our Covid-19 Take #2 survey offered up 5 distinct time frames (See graph #8-12 below) and asked participants to indicate the percentage that sales were either up or down. Suffice it to say, not a single participant indicated any UP or positive sales for the time periods reported or projected.

The graph below (Questions #8-#12) illustrates the tendency and belief at least among many survey participants that the “worst is behind us” in terms of impact on future sales. The further we go out in the future the lower the predicted cumulative negative impact on sales.

Nonetheless, printers are still predicting a 29% decline in sales for the 12 months ending Dec. 31, 2020. Note the devastating impact Covid-19 had on April sales, with printers predicting a decline of -49% on April 2020 sales compared to April 2019. The negative trend clearly carries over into the 2nd quarter of 2020 with a predicted decline of -45%.

Had we asked about predictions for 2021 we are convinced that we would continue to have seen negative numbers, but we will leave that for a future survey. For right now, suffice it to say we are indeed looking at a dismal picture in terms of both sales and profits for not only the rest of 2020 but into 2021.

Questions #8-12 – Sales Projections

Stimulus Checks & Other Loan Options

#14 – A Stimulus Check?

Our Covid-19 Take #2 survey asked five specific questions dealing with various stimulus legislation such as stimulus checks, PPP applications and EIDL/SBA Disaster Loans. Our first question was the simplest and yet the results were the most shocking.

Question #14 asked whether survey participants  had (Yes or No answer required) received their individual stimulus check or deposit of $1,200 per person (with qualifications and restriction). The question was flawed in a sense that the question assumed those that answered would be qualified to receive one.

Nonetheless, we believe that most printers and most participants would indeed be qualified to receive a stimulus check of some $$$ amount. With that said, 61% of respondents as of May 8, 2020 told us they had not received a check.

As a result, we were surprised when we began checking out the survey data. What was supposed to be the most transparent, the quickest and the simplest of the many federal bailout programs now appears to have run into some major delays if not roadblocks. When we asked folks if they had received (as of May 8th) their stimulus checks we were surprised to hear that 61% of our respondents told us “No.”

(SPECIAL NOTE: As noted previously, we realized this question and our comments that followed was flawed, in that not every owner/spouse would be qualified to receive a stimulus check. Our question should have been more specific, to allow for the fact that not everyone was qualified to receive such.)

PPL Funds and Applications –  The good news came when we asked about PPP funds. According to our survey data, almost 92% of the printing industry applied for PPP Funds, and even more surprising is that approximately 78% told us they had in fact received payments under the government’s Payroll Protection Plan. (See graph – Questions #15-17)

PPP Funds Forgiven? When asked about “forgiveness” of loans, participants told us they expected that 73.4% of the loan amount would be forgiven. The median was 95% of the loan amount.

#15-17 PPP Applications & Loans

EIDL – SBA Disaster Loans – Since this has turned out to be another popular Covid-19 era loan program, we thought we would ask participants if they have applied for a loan and whether or not they have actually received an advance and/or the full loan amount. Their answers appear below. Note that the cumulative total of the responses below (70.3%) represents to the total percent of survey participants who indicated they applied for an EIDL loan.

#18 EIDL Loan Disbursements

Cash Reserves – How Much & How Little – We asked participants to take into account steps and expenditures they have already taken, to tell us how many additional weeks or months did they feel they could survive under the current Covid-19 economy. (See Graph #19)

We must confide that the 33% of printers who told us they had enough cash reserves to last them at least six months was a refreshing bit of news considering all of the negative stats we had received. Even more encouraging was the fact that another 13% of respondents told us they could last at least one year.

Unfortunately, another 31% of printers told us they only have enough cash reserves to last them two months or less. Considering the fact that most owners predict that the negative business climate and the severe decline in demand will extend well into late summer (if not the Fall or Winter), it appears that a significant portion of the printing industry is in deep trouble.

#19 – Cash Reserves

Predicting modest recovery by Spring 2021?

Overall Business Confidence Level – Question #20 of our Covid-19 “Take #2” Survey posed the following question: “Taking into account everything that has transpired in the past three months, how would you rate your confidence level that your business will be somewhat back to ‘normal’ by April 2021.”

We provided a slider that moved through a scale from left to right. On the far left, we displayed a -100 and identified it as (Very Doubtful). In the middle we displayed a 0 and labeled it “about 50/50”. On the far right we displayed +100 and labeled it “Extremely Confident.”

The final score was +16! In hindsight, we should have simplified the scale and its interpretation. Nonetheless, we interpret the +16 to be a slightly (very slight) positive indication or feeling that their business will possible be approaching normal by Spring of 2021.

Controlling Labor Costs

Preferences for Controlling Labor CostsQuestion #21 was a complex question asking readers to provide a “weighted” answer to five possible steps that might be taken to reduce or control labor costs. We provided five options they could take, and then basically asked them to tell us how likely or unlikely they were to pursue each option. The options ranged between “We will not consider” to “Will like implement.”

As a result, we were able to produce the following graph. As you can tell, printers are very reluctant to institute a “Reduction in Pay.” At the other end of the spectrum, printers are far more likely to pursue a “Reduction in hours for individual employees” followed closely by a general “Reduction in hours across the board.”

#21 – Controlling Labor Costs

Handling Accounts Payable?

Dealing with Accounts Payable – Recognizing the critical importance of improving and maintaining cash flow, we asked participants what if any steps they have taken to delay or slow down payments to vendors.

One option that we initially had not even considered in our first draft but was added later was the option stating that the owner has not delayed or slowed payments to vendors at all. Surprisingly, as it turned out, this option dominated all of the other responses. Almost 60% of respondents told us they have not delayed or slowed payments to their vendors.

#22 Dealing With Accounts Payable

Prospects for the future of your business – We could have just as easily put this question at the beginning or the end, but we basically wanted printers to tell us how Covid-19 has impacted their business. As expected, approximately 70% told us Covid-19 is having a “significantly negative impact” on their business, while another 10.5% tell us it has been “catastrophic.” (Graph #23)

#23 – Prospects for the Future?

The Role of Politics

Support for Governors, Congress & the President – Since politics plays such a major role in everything these days, the last five questions of our survey attempted to gauge the support and ratings offered by participants for their governors, state legislatures, the U.S. Congress and President Trump. Participants were provided a scale ranging from 0 (Totally Opposed) to 50 (Neutral) to 100 (Fully Support). 

Accurate Reporting on this data was imperative and we thus calculated both average and median figures. Our take? Too close to call out any big “winners” or “losers” in this contest!

Questions #24-27

Red States vs. Blue States – As a foundation for question #23, we asked participants to define the political nature of their own state. Where they in “Red,” “Blue,” or “Purple” state. The answers appear below. Our “gut” expected the “Red” state percentage to be slightly higher than the 32% shown, but all of that will only really matter when November rolls around.

#28 – Red State vs. Blue State

Our Sincere Thanks – We want to sincerely thank those of you who took the time to participate in our most recent industry survey. Rest assured it will not be our last, but we will be honest with you that we need your continuing support, not only as a survey participant but also as a financial supporter.

We would also like to thank the following two individuals for their help and advice in creating this industry survey:  (1) John Henry, owner of Speedway Press, Oswego, NY and founding board member of NPOA, and (2) Armand Girard, owner of Curry Printing & Marketing, Auburn, ME and also a founding board member of NPOA.

You can support NPRC and its research efforts by participating in various surveys we conduct and/or purchasing studies when they published. Click here to visit our Bookstore. If you feel really generous, but have already purchased one or more of our studies, you can always make a small donation to NPRC via PayPal at membership@printingresearch.org.

Remember to drop us a line and give us your suggestions for future surveys, especially those dealing with the current and future impact of Covid-19! We love to hear from you.

John Stewart, Executive Director, NPRC

Copyright 2020, National Printing Research Council (NPRC), Melbourne, FL  www.printingresearch.org




Visits: 576

California Mailer Praises Mailing Study

“The new NPRC Mailing Services Pricing Study is one of the best surveys to come out from NPRC in a long time,” says David Adams, owner of QPS Printing, Petaluma, CA.

“Although all of the association’s surveys are of immense help, this one hit a sweet spot for our company. It validated our pricing positions and gave us some items to add, services we should be breaking up into different price categories and not be ‘all-inclusive in pricing'”.

“We have grown our commercial printing firm to be in the top ten in the San Francisco north bay. Surveys like the Mailing Services Pricing Study keep us growing,” adds Adams.

Adams is one of many printers and mailers who have praised NPRC’s latest industry study, the 2020-2021 Mailing Services Pricing Study. This brand new, 100+ page study is packed with average and median prices for dozens and dozens of popular mailing products and services, including:

Full-Service IMb Charges
De-duping Fees
NCOA Processing Fees
Laser Letter Merging Fees
Markup Rates for Brokered Lists
Inkjet Addressing Fees
Insertion Charges for #10, 6×9″ and 9×12″ Envelopes
Metering Charges
Hand & Machine Application of Stamps
Self-Mailer Processing Fees
Plus, many, many other services & Products.

Click here to download the complete Table of Contents for this just-released study.


Visits: 130

Industry Mark-up Rates & Practices

Occasionally, we receive inquiries from printers asking us about markup rates and practices in our industry. Some of the inquiries come from folks who have just gotten into the business, while others come from old-timers who entered the industry during the 1980’s and 90’s.

Here’s an email we received just the other day along with our partial response:

“Hello John, I received the new pricing guide and think it is great information, thank you. I do have a question that maybe you could point me in the right direction.  We’re going thru the process of updating my pricing ,  and I’m interested on how other printers handle outsourced costs & final price vs in house.

“I use PrintSmith and years back set up a mark-up % for cost to arrive at a selling price. However I’m struggling to have a consistent price point when generating an invoice to the end user when we decide to outsource vs in-house. I may be making it to complicated, but hoping someone could give me some pointers.”

I responded with the following:

Dear Bob (not his real name), the best I can offer is some observations based upon 35+ years of consulting plus more than 30 years of publishing various pricing studies.

My first observations is that most printers really don’t understand the purpose of mark-ups and consequently, they tend to use far lower markup rates than they should.

Markups on purchases of outside products and services should be used to establish a selling price that recovers all direct and indirect costs as well as the anticipated risks, as well as produce a reasonable profit. Unfortunately, many, many printers in this country aren’t doing that. In fact, the more they broker the lower their profits tend to be.

Low Costs, Thus Low Markups?

A couple of weeks before receiving the inquiry from Bob, I received a similar inquiry from a graphic designer who told me he was just starting off in business. He said he already had a couple of customers but was totally confused about what types of markups he should use when purchasing brokered services.

He emphasized the fact that his business was very small but he wanted to grow. He noted that right now he was working out of his house and thus he had little or no overhead to account for, so in his mind that justified much lower markups. In fact, by not having to markup jobs as much he figured he has a competitive advantage.

Of course the flaw in that argument is that if he truly wants to grow his business, acquire an office, hire staff or a secretary to field calls and inquiries, he needs to be taking that into account now when he sets his markup rates. “How do you ever expect to grow and prosper if you are not charging enough now to produce profits sufficient to finance and support that growth,” I asked.

Many printers intentionally ignore a fundamental business principle that states that when it comes to pricing, every effort must be taken to recover all direct and indirect expenses involved in the production or brokering of a job. Just because a job is brokered doesn’t mean it is exempt from contributing to the general overhead expenses of the business.

The facts are it is highly unlikely you would fielding calls regarding those brokered products if it was not for the physical structure being supported by those fixed overhead expenses. If you fail to account for these types of expenses and fail to assign a portion of these costs to every brokered job you are making a serious mistake.

Markup Rates & Practices

If you bring up the topic of markups in a gathering of printers you will likely hear two common responses:

  • ” We generally double our costs, unless it is a big job and then we might lower that a bit.”
  • “We markup all outside purchases by 50%, unless they are really big jobs and might drop that down to 40% or so.”

The problem with the practice of “doubling the costs” is that it is rarely applied as a “flat” across-the-board markup. Far more common, is the practice of lowering markup rates as the costs increase. While this practice holds up well for brokered products and services costing $100 or less, many printers feel compelled to dramatically lower the markup percentages they use when dealing with brokered jobs costing them $500, $1,000 and more.

So while a 100% markup (doubling the costs) might be considered adequate for jobs costing $100 or less,  many printers seem to be terribly reluctant to use similar markups as their internal cost of the jobs starts to approach $250, $1,000 and $2,500. The irony of this type of attitude is that the financial risk increases as the cost of the job increases. If a job that costs $50 and is sold for $100 has to be “eaten” by the average printer, he or she can afford the costs of the rerun. However, what about the brokered job costing $2,500 that must be rerun at the printer’s expense? Was it marked up sufficiently to cover the risks that might be involved if the job has to be rerun at the printer’s expense? Generally, the answer is “No.”

Gross Profits* Too Low

What about marking everything up by 50% or so? Does that work? Not if you want to survive in this industry and remain profitable.  Marking something up by only 50% produces a gross profit of 33%, far too low a gross profit to sustain, let alone grow a business. Even doubling the price (a markup of 100%) produces a gross profit of 50%, and that is still too low.

*Gross Profit is defined as selling price less cost of goods. Labor costs are not included in cost of goods.

A Markup of 100%

Selling Price $ 200
Cost $ 100
Gross Profit $ 100 (50%)

A Markup of 50%

Selling Price $ 150
Cost $ 100
Gross Profit $ 50 (33%)

It is important to note that in the printing industry, as a general rule, the average gross profit ranges between 68-70% on all jobs. However, if it is a brokered job and you’ve marked it up 100% you are producing a gross profits substantially lower than if that job or a similar job had been produced internally.  Ironically, the risks involved in brokered jobs is significantly higher than those jobs produced internally. When you broker a job, you lose control of the production process. When a job is produced internally, you can spot, correct and fix mistakes far quicker than when a job is brokered.

For the record, firms that tend to broker 25% or more of their sales to outside vendors typically report significantly lower gross profits and lower net owner’s compensation. Although brokering can be profitable, it is rarely as profitable as work produced internally. The bottom line, the more a firm brokers, the less profits it tends to produce.  (Data extracted from page 33, of the 2017-18 Financial Benchmarking Study.)

All too often it seems that printers are more concerned with pleasing customers and making them happy than they are producing a profit. I suspect, that there are some printers out there who would gladly markup something up as little as 10-15% just to keep a customer happy. Worse, are the printers who totally ignore their labor and overhead costs and thus fail to take these costs into account when calculating the types and percentages of of costs that need to be recovered by every single job processed through the printing firm – produced internally or by a broker.

Don’t ever apologize – A printer who knows a brokered job will cost him $1,000 and marks it by 70% and consequently sells it for $1,700 has nothing whatsoever to apologize for or feel guilty about! Remember too, that graphic design charges and shipping charges also need to be added to that $1,700 job.

Many of the pricing studies produced by NPRC report on markup practices. Some studies only cover paper markup practices, while other studies have addressed markup practices involving outside products. The 2018-19 Signs & Wide Format Pricing Study is a good example of the latter.

Markup Rates for Outsourced Products & Services – 2018-19 Signs & Wide Format Pricing Study

As I told Bob in my email to him, “Most printers tend to use a sliding scale based upon their costs, whether they are dealing with cost of paper or the cost of the brokered product or services. Whether the markups they are using are sufficient remains to be seen.”

I offered Bob some examples of current markups in use in our industry. The data I sent him appears below:


Brokered Cost $50 $100 $250 $1,000
Mark-up % 120% 99% 86% 71%
Aver. Selling Price $110 $199 $465 $1,715

The data above is taken from page 54 of the 2018-2019 Signs & Wide Format Pricing Study. I know many printers that would  use far more aggressive markup rates.

There is one very successful printer in the Northeast who would scoff at using any markup less than 100%, regardless of the projected selling price. In fact, this printer tends to prefer using markups of 125-150%. She knows full well that some of her more timid competitors just down the street would never consider using markup rates anywhere near that large.  Does she worry about losing a job because a competitor is offering the same job for far less? Not a chance.

For those printers (and I know some of you will react this way) who will respond by claiming there is no way they could get away with markups like we are talking about I will tell you that you are wrong. Yes indeed, there are printers within a couple of blocks of your operation that are indeed marking up 100% or more and getting the jobs – the same jobs that you will timidly markup 30-40%!

Many readers claim to know their markets when nothing could be further from the truth. They know nothing more about their markets that what an occasional customer has remarked about their pricing. Oh, you conducted a pricing survey a couple of years ago and you know what your market will accept in terms of markups. Hogwash!

I’ll bet the survey wasn’t worth the paper it was written on, and I wouldn’t put a lot of faith in the individual conducting that survey either! Who was it? Your lead CSR, your delivery guy or possibly your cousin? Wolw, before you rationalize and give us all the reasons why you can’t do this and why you can’t do that, read the article titled “Shopping Your Competitors” in the NPRC Blog.

Less successful printers, those who make marginal profits and struggle to make payroll including their own, tend to shy away from markups of 100% and more, believing instead that markups of 50% are good enough, which of course they never are!


Visits: 641

Printers Praise New NPRC Digital Pricing Study

Printers from across the U.S. are praising NPRC’s newest study, The 2019-2020 “Sweet Sixteen” Digital Pricing Study. This just-released report, covers 16 of the printing industry’s most popular digital products and services, is only available as a hard copy.

The new report is packed with the very latest pricing info and includes literally hundreds of average and median prices for more than a dozen of the most popular digital products and services in the printing industry. Click here to view and download the study’s Table of Contents.

Virtually every page in this just-released study reveals pricing info you can use immediately to cross-check and compare your own pricing against others in the industry.

Most products and services covered in this study include average and median pricing, a 10% high and low extraction, plus pricing based on a per unit basis such as pricing per sheet, per click, per envelope and even pricing per carbonless set. This feature makes it easier than ever for readers to obtain pricing for unusual quantities or quantities simply not covered in the report.

Orders are processed and shipped same-day as received via USPS Priority Mail.

Retail Price: $245. Click here to order:

Go below and read what fellow printers
have to say about this new pricing study…

“John, thank you for all your work in providing the printing industry with the “Sweet Sixteen” Digital Color Pricing Study, and the many other studies you have published for us for so many years. It always helps to know where we are at and not to leave money on the table. Keep up the good work.”

Arie Teomi, Lasting Impression Direct, Cleveland, OH


“Having just updated our digital press so we are able to competitively print 4-color envelopes, this price study is invaluable when setting competitive pricing for 4-color envelopes.”

Marian Fenlon, DPI Printing, Oshkosh, WI


“I always look forward to receiving your reports, particularly the pricing studies. They’re my best source of data to be sure our prices are within a reasonable range, and the best confidence-builder I’ve found against buyers who say our prices are too high. Knowing our prices are reasonable means I look for better prospects, rather than caving on prices.”

Steve Blatman, Ink Spot Printing & Copy Center, Inc., Frazer, PA


“Your studies have been a big help in keeping me in business for more than 28 years. I have used the industry pricing studies over the years to make sure our prices are competitive and adjust where necessary. This gives our customer service representatives confidence that our prices are fair and reasonable. I cannot understand why many more print shop owners do not take advantage of these valuable studies, especially when they can get them for free with just a little effort.”

Mike Geygan, Minuteman Press, Lebanon, OH

“I want to thank you for including my firm in your annual pricing study. Even though my company is extremely small, the study gives us information necessary to stay in business. Unlike the bigger companies, which can try random pricing strategies, we need to only use fact-based strategies which the pricing study provides each year.”

Ralph Dunavant, American Printing & Promotions, Manassas, VA


“Hi John, I have been participating in your surveys for more than 20 years. As I look back over those years, I realize that I have referred to your surveys more than any other source of pricing information in the printing industry. It is concise, accurate and timely. I would have to say that this info has helped me be sharper in our pricing, win more bids and make more money. Thanks so much for your efforts!”

Jon Robson, Auburn Document Centre, Auburn, NY


“We have been participating in the NPRC’s surveys for some years now. The information they have provided us with has been the topic of many pricing plan discussions in our weekly meetings. they help us stay competitive. The “Sweet Sixteen” survey helped us tune our digital pricing structure as we move forward to grow the digital segment of our business. Invaluable information.”

David Adams, Quality Printing Services Inc., Petaluma, CA






David Adams

90 Sycamore Lane

Petaluma, CA 94952


Visits: 88

“Pricing” – Where Does it Rank?

Earlier this week (April 8-10, 2019) we posted a graph and some summary comments regarding a survey conducted by RIT in 2003. We encouraged reader feedback and while we did receive two comments, we are looking for additonal feedback that we can post here.

Click artwork to download 2-p PDF

In the meantime, we have obtained permission from the original author to reprint the entire 2-page article. You need to read this article with an open-mind, rather than through some heavily tinted glasses that always seem to blame pricing for all your woes. Way too many printers often cite “pricing” as the primary cause for their lack of growth, poor profits, and the lack of customer loyalty, just to name a few.

If printers could only hear themselves talk sometimes. If they did they would realize that they use “pricing” as an excuse for their troubles. They blame printing brokers, low ball competitors down the street as well as the lack of loyalty from their own customers. If these printers did a little bit more probing, they would possibly discover that it really wasn’t pricing that caused their customers to leave, but things like consistent failure to meet deadlines, sometimes poor quality and less than friendly CSRs.

Anyway, enjoy the article and send us your feedback to: membership@printingresearch.org

Yes, we would love to do this survey all over again and see what has changed and what has remained the same, but getting our hands on a representative list of prospects to whom we could mail would represent a real challenge. Any ideas>

Visits: 231

How Important is “Price” Among Print Buyers?

A few days ago we were making a fruitless attempt to clean up our office when I came across something that’s been up on my bulletin board for at least 15 years. It is an article that was published in Graphic Impressions magazine in 2003.  The title of the article was: The Top Questions Creative Agencies and Print Buyers Ask Of Potential Print Providers.” The subhead was just as intriguing –  In a Digital, On-Demand World, It’s About Much More than Price.

Authored by Bob Wagner, who at the time worked for the Xerox Corporation, the article discussed a survey conducted by the Rochester Institute  of Technology (RIT) in 2003. The survey was distributed to 250 creative advertising and design agencies in 2003. Yes, I recognize that is 15 years ago, but I believe the findings are as accurate today, if not more so, as they were in 2003. If you disagree with that conclusion let me know by using the email link below.

Those surveyed were asked to rank each of eight factors or considerations that typically go in the decision-making practice of selecting one printer over another. Buyers were asked to grade each factor on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most important criteria in selecting a printer. The graph below illustrates the findings of that survey.

I think if printers were to take this survey, they would rank “pricing” much higher.

I’ve always found this article fascinating because it has confirmed one of my theories on pricing – one of which being that an average print buyer, presented with a list of valid selection criteria, will inevitably select factors other than price as being the primary or #1 factor for selecting one printer versus another. 
Unfortunately, many printers concentrate so much on price that they fail to realize they could be charging more for their services and products if they promoted other factors as strongly as they do “Price.” I can understand why many printers concentrate on “Price” because to be blunt they oftentimes rank quite low on some of the other, more important factors cited by print buyers.

This job was due four hours ago.

Are you really dependable? Many printers “talk” a good game when it comes to dependability but they often perform really poorly. They are not dependable, and it is “hit or miss” for the average customer. They drop by the shop at 3 p.m. to pick-up the job they were promised only to be told it isn’t quite ready. If the truth were known, they job that was ready to be sent to the digital printer at 10 a.m. still hasn’t been sent, and it needs to be cut and folded when it is finished. The fact that the job isn’t ready often doesn’t seem to phase the staff and the reason for that is that no one in the company considers deadlines that critical.
What about “print quality?” Given today’s digital technology, it would seem hard to get a failing or low grade in this area, but some printers prove that it can be done! Many firms get a passing grade on the printing side, only to end up failing when it comes to finishing and packaging.
What about “turn-around Time?” Many printers prefer to stick to traditional time-worn schedules rather than demonstrating to customers how quickly the job can be turned around. It is frustrating to watch owners and top CSRs set delivery dates as far out as possible, not because the firm is that busy, but rather to avoid complaints from the graphics department or the back shop that the promised delivery dates are pushing the system. Really? Give us a break.
Ease of doing business? Believe it or not, many firms are not that easy to deal with but they don’t even realize it. Sometimes it seems like there’s a constant battle going on between the customer, the CSRs and the production team in back. The interactions between a customer and the printing staff ought to be a fun experience, not a struggle or clash of personalities. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what print buyers often report when it comes to calling up their printer to discuss an upcoming project. 
We welcome your feedback. Send us an email at membership@printingresearch.org and give us your feedback. We would love to gather your opinions and share them with others. Have a great day.
John Stewart, Executive Director
National Printing Research Council (NPRC)
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NPRC Releases Wage Study (See Graphs)

Failing to keep up with wages & benefits can easily cost a firm thousands $$$, and that’s why NPRC decided to move ahead late this fall and conduct its latest industry survey – The 2017-2018 Wage & Benefits Survey.

2017-18wagecoverThe new, just-released Wage & Benefits Study, covering 22 key positions in our industry, is packed with valuable information pertaining to wages, salaries and benefits offered by printers from across the U.S.

Like all surveys published by NPRC, firms that participated in the survey and submitted their survey form by the Oct. 31st deadline received their complimentary copy of the study on or about Nov. 30, 2016. 

You can order this study now by visiting the NPRC bookstore.  Retail Price: $179; NPRC Member Price: $89.50. All publications published by NPRC are sold on a 100% Money-Back guarantee! No questions asked!

Below are a few of the graphs included in this latest NPRC Study. 


The distribution of survey participants by reported SPE is quite similar to what has been reported in previous industry surveys and studies.


Owners were asked to provide their level of profitability. The resulting data was graphed accordingly. Approximately 45% of our respondents told us they were either “above average” or “high profit firms”.


We took the SPE data provided by respondents and ranked it from low to high; next, we divided the list of 280+ firms into four approximate quartiles or quarters and then averaged the result of each quartile. Above is the resulting data.


This chart simply illustrates the number of individual positions for which wage, salary and benefit data was provided. As an example, 125 of our responding firms provided data on the position we described as, “Sr. Graphics & Pre-Press.” Both average and median wage data is provided in this study.




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Improving SPE Critical to Profits

According to new research data recently gathered by NPRC, the average SPE in the printing industry has now reached almost $140,000. Put another way, if your SPE is less than $140,000 your firm would now fall into the bottom half of the industry when compared to your peers, according to findings in the soon-to-be-released 20176-2018 Quick Printing Industry Wage & Benefits Study.

Highlighting the direct relationship between SPE and profitability, NPRC sorted the data gathered from our latest Wage & Benefits Study and found that firms reporting the highest profits (20% or higher) reported average sales per employee of $152,000, while firms reporting profitability of less than 6% reported average SPE of $104,000, or an SPE 31% lower than those at the top!

2016-17-nprc-wage-benefit-backup_6244_image017The direct relationship between SPE and Profitability “There is little doubt in my mind that there is and always has been a direct relationship between SPE and profitability in this industry. Without high SPEs it is almost impossible to achieve high levels of profitability,” notes John Stewart, NPRC Executive Director. “Owners need to quit rationalizing that they can somehow increase productivity while living with a below average SPE.” (Read more about this relationship and how you can quickly improve your SPE in upcoming articles to be posted on this NPRC website.)

NPRC is putting finishing touches on its latest Wage & Benefits Study where in you can find more detail on the findings noted above. The new research study is based upon responses from more than 180 participants and is packed with wage and salary information covering 22 of the most common positions in our industry.

Check back soon for a more detailed analysis on SPE and how you can improve it in 60 days or less!


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