Rising Print Costs: A Survival Guide for Publishers

a woman burning money to represent rising print costs

The printing and publishing landscape has changed dramatically over the past two years.

In the past, print costs hardly moved, so publishers tended to stick with the same printer. Even if it wasn’t necessarily the ‘best’ prices, people had a more “better the devil you know” attitude.

Fast forward to today, however, and now everything has changed. Paper prices are skyrocketing, importing and shipping issues are the norm, there’s a shortage in raw materials within the print industry and, of course, energy and utilities are on the up. Every publisher is feeling the impact.

It has gotten so bad that some publishing companies are worried about their survival – and that was the inspiration for this blog.

As a print broker, we can really minimise the costs for our clients; we can help navigate this storm. Here’s how.

First, it might be helpful to understand – what is causing prices to rise?

Well, it’s a bit of a perfect storm: the after (and ongoing effects) of Covid together with Brexit (a colossal pain), and now the quickly changing situation in Ukraine.

  • The impact of Brexit has caused significant issues and delays insourcing. Since most printing materials (e.g. paper, ink, chemical products, metals etc.) come from the E.U., the supply chain was already problematic due to shipping delays and paperwork complexities. Getting the things we need to manufacture is just harder and more expensive now.
A shipping container to explain rising print costs
  • Supply chains have broken down due to the pandemic. The initial Covid lockdowns and ongoing Covid situations globally have drastically reduced the output from factories. This has led to a shortage of materials right the way back to the source material.
  • Imbalanced supply and demand have caused material prices to skyrocket. As businesses started to open again, demand increased drastically, but there was a massive shortage of materials. Even now, supply is low, and paper suppliers are fighting for these raw materials. With demand so very high and supply so very low, an increase in prices is inevitable.
  • U.K. buyers are suffering more with this limited supply. European suppliers sell what little they have in the E.U. because it’s easier and more cost-effective. Since they have to pay additional shipping and import costs to buyers in the U.K. and the complexities around paperwork and transport, raw materials are costing us even more before you even start the process.
  • Massive jumps in energy. The economy opened up very quickly post-lockdown, and businesses weren’t really ready. Suddenly, people were driving more, flying more, and using more energy. Climate change can’t be underestimated either. A much colder winter in Europe last year (leading to increased heating use) and a much warmer summer in Asia (leading to increased air conditioning use), all impacts supply and, therefore, costs. As a result, prices for utilities (e.g. heating, electric, lighting etc.) have also skyrocketed.
  • The current, tragic situation in Ukraine is just adding to this already complex situation.
Petrol cost sign

Now the critical bit – How we help minimise the costs for publishers

As a professional print buyer, we work for you, the publisher. We are in a unique position, and now more than ever, we can help our clients mitigate some of these price increases.

Here are just three ways we are minimising the impact of rising print costs for our existing clients.  

1. We have a broad overview of the market.

If a publisher has one printer, they will be limited to how that printer is managing to survive. For example, their printer may be under a lot of pressure from their particular suppliers, who are increasing their costs by 20-30%, and it is the publisher who will suffer from this price increase in the end.

As a print broker, we are constantly in the thick of it. We have access to U.K., European and Asian printers, which gives us a broad overview of the market and specific knowledge of all our suppliers. With this information on materials and prices in different areas, we can find the best (and most cost-effective) option for you for every project.

Just think of us as the comparethemarket.com for printing books! The quicker things are changing, the more alert we have to be.

a man looking over the clouds

2. We have a lot of flexibility (which means money saved for you).

We are not limited to one printer and whatever materials they can get their hands on. Instead, we can buy from the European market and the U.K. and access various materials. What this means for you is the absolute best costs at that time.

For example, E.U. prices increased before Christmas, whereas now they are more stable while U.K. prices are all over the place. There is also more pressure on certain materials, so costs are higher with some suppliers versus others. For example, one printer has put 15% on paper this week while another hasn’t had any increase. What we can do is surf this ever-changing wave for you, offering you different markets and materials to minimise your costs at that moment.

Not all suppliers are under the same pressures at the same time. Our job is to stay ahead of this for our clients.

a woman doing yoga

3. We know what changes are coming & from whom.

The best way to minimise the impact of rising print costs is by planning and making smart decisions BEFORE significant changes occur. If you don’t, you will just get a call from your printer informing you that there will be another 10% or 20% increase to prices next week!

If you work with a print broker, you will always be one step ahead with these changes. Why? Because we are immersed in the industry. We know when price rises will be coming and who is affected, and we can then help mitigate any impact on your budget because we have advanced notice of what projects/titles you have coming up too.

We’ve worked with many clients recently, forecasting price changes and proactively taking steps to minimise costs. There are different solutions for different publishers, but some examples of the things we have done are:

  • Pre-buying paper in bulk for later projects.
  • Pulling the production forward for certain titles.
  • Switching suppliers because their mills were not increasing prices at that time.
  • Allocating & locking in the paper for larger runs.
  • Using European printers instead of British (or vice versa depending on the price at the time).
  • Continually comparing and updating price options as things change.
  • Running titles together.
  • Changing paginations and other specifications to be more effective.

Andy and the team at Xpedient Print have been, as usual, extremely proactive about managing potential print cost increases and have already secured some really good prices for us, despite all of the pressures in the industry.

– Hermione Ireland, Managing Director at Académie du Vin Library
a crystal ball

There has never been a better time to have a professional print buyer looking out for you.

As your print production department, which we are for publishers, we are always working on behalf of the publisher. This means we don’t react to the challenges and problems facing individual printers and the industry right now, but rather, we proactively look at the market as a whole and manage projects accordingly. By having continual conversations with you throughout the year, we can advise on the best steps to minimise the impact of rising print costs. (But only if you bring us in sooner rather than later!)

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Need help surviving the rising print costs?

If you haven’t used a Print Broker before and you want to know more about how we can help your business, please get in touch with us today. We’d love to help.

Andy Rogers

[email protected] / 01792 475149

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