It’s really no big surprise that our 38th annual ranking of the largest companies in the printing industry in the United States and Canada, by annual sales ranking, is now 2021 Print impressions 300 – not the Printing Impressions 350 that appeared in 2020. After all, the majority of the graphic arts companies on our venerable list reported their annual calendar 2020 sales as their most recent fiscal year, with the 2019 calendar representing their sales of the previous year.
Given the onslaught and subsequent shutdowns of many segments of the U.S. economy beginning in March 2020 due to COVID-19, it’s understandable that commercial printing CEOs aren’t rushing to report their annual sales numbers. . And, although the printing industry was ultimately deemed “essential,” many of the verticals that these primarily private printing companies were not. Combine that with all the business uncertainty for marketers, brand owners, retailers and other print buyers, it’s no surprise that many of the companies on our 2021 list in this issue have reported double-digit annual revenue declines.
But, just as hope is eternal, I remain optimistic that the pandemic, and all its variants, will start to decline in 2022 – and next year’s rankings will see the list go up to 350 companies. Nonetheless, long-time readers will remember that our list included 500 companies for many years, then dipped to 400 – mostly the result of print industry consolidation – followed by drops to 350 in 2020 and 300 in 2021 – this time, largely due to COVID’s negative impact on the industry.
Some businesses in the printing industry have flourished
But, just like every cloud has a silver lining, there are signs of optimism, and some companies on the list have actually thrived in these uncertain times. Unsurprisingly, these businesses have expanded through print markets beyond commercial printing, such as large format digital printing, labels and packaging, mail and fulfillment, data management and other services.
The 2021 Print impressions 300 itself also reflects several current industry trends and dynamics. Starting from the top, it looks like RR Donnelley (RRD) – North America’s largest commercial printer – will be bought by a private equity firm. Although at press time it remains unclear whether RRD’s new parent company will be Chatham Asset Management or an as-yet-unknown strategic buyer, RRD will be the poster child of the big print shops that have been gobbled up by private equity firms.
RRD joins several others: LSC Communications (Atlas Holdings), IMAGINE (Cerberus Capital Management and Arbor Lane Capital Management), SG360° and OneTouchPoint Inc. (ICV Partners), Vision Integrated Graphics Group (HIG Capital), DG3 Diversified Global Graphics ( Resilience Capital Partners) and Arandell Corp. (Saothair Capital Partners), among others.
While it may be unfair to make a general statement, one has to wonder how these acquisitions by financial buyers will have a longer-term impact on the printing industry, given that the business model of many Private equity firms has traditionally been about downsizing a stake and then flipping it a few years later so investors can cash in on their capital appreciation.
That said, eFront reports that private equity holdings expanded in 2020 to a record 5.4 years, on average. So perhaps a buy-and-hold strategy is becoming a viable business model for some private equity buyers, and it’s not just an indication of lower valuations relative to what they paid.
Commercial printing is converging into new markets
While not necessarily new, another trend illustrated on our 2021 list is the global convergence happening across the industry. While the distinct lanes that used to separate different types of print businesses have been blurring for some time, the pace of printers entering – or at least seriously investigating – whole new market segments and product applications continues to accelerate, in part due to lower costs of entry into the market for digital printing equipment. Commercial print shops, for example, are not just looking at large format digital printing and packaging as product line extensions, they are jumping head-first into digital and even industrial direct-to-garment printing applications. .
Talking to the major commercial printing, direct mail and book printing players, there are many signals pointing to opportunities for market growth across the board in all these segments, despite ongoing shortages of paper, labor and general supply chain that affect the entire printing industry, coupled with the headwinds of high rates of inflation that currently pervade the entire US economy.
In these troubled times, we can take comfort that we, as an industry and a nation, are all in this together. We just need to focus more on what unites us than what divides us, and that conditions will continue to improve. Because after all, a rising tide can really lift all boats.
Top 10 Printing Companies That Made The 2021 Printing Impressions 300 List
Rank|Company name|Head office|Annual sales
- R. R. Donnelley | Chicago|$4.80 billion
- Taylor Corp. | N. Mankato, MN|$3.50 billion
- ATV|Sussex, WI | $2.93 billion
- Cipress | Waltham, MA | $2.59 billion
- Orora North America|Mesquite, TX | $2.02 billion
- Transcontinental Inc. | Montreal|$2.02 billion
- LSC Communications, MCLC Div. | Warrenville, IL|$1.05 billion
- Donnelley Financial Solutions | Chicago|$894.5M
- Cenveo Companies|Stamford, CT | $831 million
- Lakeside Book | Warrenville, IL | $825 million
Click here to download the full 2021 Print impressions 300, which includes the top 5 rankings of the largest book, catalog, direct mail and publication printers, ranked by sales segment. For comparison, you can also click here to download the 2020 Print impressions 350 list.