Economic Recovery Failed to Save Dozens of Medium-Sized Print Firms in the NYC-Metro Area

The New York City metro area lost medium-sized printing firms at a sharper rate than four other major metropolitan areas during the economic recovery, according to data compiled by print industry economist Dr. Joe Webb.

His numbers, published today by WhatTheyThink, span the period from 2010 (about one year into the recovery) through 2013 (the most recent year for which data are available) and are drawn from the Census Department’s County Business Patterns database. They indicate that the NYC metro area lost 75 medium-sized firms (10 to 49 employees) in the period as this sector declined from 513 to 438 establishments (-14.6%). This was a steeper drop among medium sized firms than occurred in the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles (-8.1%), Chicago (-13.0%), Washington, D.C. (-4.8%), and San Francisco (-12.1%).

The NYC-metro firms didn’t necessarily vanish without a trace. “Many of these would have shifted into the small employee range, while others would have closed or consolidated,” Webb writes. An upside of consolidation may be the fact that large firms (50 or more employees) declined by only -5.7% in the NYC-metro area, the smallest such loss among the five cities examined.

The NYC-metro area saw an overall drop of -10.1% in establishments of all sizes, higher than the -7.7% loss for the rest of the county (i.e., exclusive of the five cities, which represent about one quarter of all U.S. printing establishments).

Partly responsible for the decline is the reality that the key business advantage for metro area printers, proximity to metro-based customers, is not as potent as it once was. “There was a time when being geographically close to customers was critical,” notes Webb, “(but) since the advent of digital proofing and various surrogates, and e-commerce, geography is less of an issue than it used to be.” But, he still rates personal interaction as important to sales and customer retention: “It may no longer be a 10, but it’s probably an 8.5.”

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