Printing Industry Navigates the ‘New Normal’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Five years ago, Boardman Printing relied on an offset printer that required a press operator, says Cindy DelSignore, sales manger.

Once that operator retired, the company made a transformational decision: It would trade in its offset printing operations for a fully digital process, a change she says has made commercial projects more efficient.

“[The commercial printing industry] has definitely changed with bringing in digital print,” she says. “It changed in a good way. Digital printing allows companies to order in smaller quantities because there is no set up. You are print on demand.”

DelSignore says digital has also allowed for more enhanced colors and a greater variety of color options.

“Not every business needs 1,000 of something,” she says. “We can be competitive even if they only need 100.

Boardman Printing is the print shop division of Nomis Publications Inc., which has been family owned and operated since 1974.

“We pretty much do every kind of printing that you can imagine other than 3D printing,” DelSignore says. “We do a lot of invitations for weddings. But we also do business cards, carbon list forms, banners [and] promotional products – like cups and lanyards. We do a little bit of everything.”

The print shop’s main customers are businesses and those hosting private parties, events or gatherings. Most customers are local  but DelSignore says the shop has nationwide customers too.

DelSignore relates that although advances in technology have changed the industry, Boardman Printing remains committed to keeping a personal rapport with its customers.

“With things going online, web-to-print has become big,” she says. “We don’t do web-to-print. We take orders directly with our clients. We like the face-to-face or over-the-phone interaction with them.”

Among the biggest challenges is the rising cost of materials. “The price of paper has just gone through the roof,” DelSignore says. “The price of promotional products – same thing. The biggest challenge has been those price increases and trying not to pass them on as much as we can.”

While DelSignore acknowledges that many other businesses in the region suffer from staffing issues, Boardman Printing is fortunate to have employees who have worked at the company for more than 20 years.

Web-based printing services have led to increased competition. But DelSignore says Boardman Printing has successfully navigated the market. 

And despite challenges across the industry, revenues are expected to increase for printing businesses.

According to Expert Market Research, the commercial printing market reached a value of $763 billion in 2022. The market is projected to grow further, with a compound annual growth rate of 2.2% between 2023 and 2028.

Randy Beck, owner of Sharon Commercial Printing Group, says digital technology emerged from its infancy about 20 years ago.

The company now offers design, print, mail and signage. This includes notepads, letterheads, checks, coasters, mirror hang tags, business cards and presentation folders.

“Every year [digital technology] slowly increases in percentages of my volume,” Beck says. Digital used to account for about 2% of the company’s business, Beck says. “Now it is up to 60%, primarily because we do a lot of variable data,” he says.

Beck has been in the business since 1976 and primarily serves commercial customers. Currently, Sharon Commercial Printing Group has 2,000 clients.

“Technology has changed drastically over the years,” he says. “It proved for the better. So we are able to do things more efficiently.”

One of the biggest changes in technology is the use of computers. While Beck says most interactions with customers used to take place in person, this is no longer the case.

“Human interaction has not become as important anymore. We can do things via email online, setting up sites for folks so that they can place orders electronically,” he says.

For static projects, traditional offset printing is typically used because it is much more cost efficient. For short run and variable projects, Beck says it makes more sense to do it digitally.

Another observation he makes is there remains a market for direct mail.

“Direct mail is not thin,” he says. “It’s just changed. Folks have finally realized that there is a demographic out there that really likes to receive a mail piece.”

Beck says supplier issues – paper shortages, specifically – resulting from the pandemic have since stabilized. However, pricing has skyrocketed approximately 40%.

“Our industry supplies have become global – very global,” he says. “We as a company avoid anything made in China.”

The customer base ranges from small businesses to large companies, Beck says, noting the company often works with its smaller customers to create marketing ideas.

For larger companies, online portals are set up where clients are able to place orders and monitor previous orders. Internal management allows for companies to regulate who is able to place orders and for how much is also available.

“They can see when the order was placed, when it was manufactured, when it was shipped, who received it and the exact cost,” he says.

Pictured at top: Cindy DelSignore holds a sign made at Boardman Printing. Next to her is a display of bridal signs and invitations.