It was late in 2007 that I had our first taste of the Great Recession. The housing bubble burst and I was one of many copier sales people that were affected by professionals and businesses going belly up. One day they were there and the next day they weren't, at one time the leases were paid on schedule and the next month many stated there was no income to be had. Many think the Great Recession was from 2007 to 2009, however with my feet in the trenches living that horrid dream it was more like 2007 to 2011.
Every Recession Will Spawn New Technology
I'm not sure what year it was but I do remember attending an industry event in Park City, Utah. One speaker spoke about how every recession will spawn new technology that will change every business. When the going gets tough companies will launch new technologies that are designed to lower companies costs. I believe the message to us is that our industry could lose up to 10% of our revenue because of new technology in the next recession.
It's my firm belief that 2007-2011 was the start of our reduction of clicks for our industry due to technology advancements and rapid advancement of digital solutions and habits with a younger workforce.
Yes, there were some good years after 2011, even though the revenue from gross sales from the hardware got better and better. But the eroding of clicks was still there. It was more a slow demise over the next eight years.
How can we forget? Covid19 was the triple whammy for our industry.
First of all because workers were not in the office, printing in major market areas fell hard and fast. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other major markets had no one in the office. Thus no one was printing/copying or scanning which equals no clicks.
Second of all business owners and workers adapted, they quickly learned how to get their work down without printing pages (even old guys like me had to adapt or die). Many companies adopted technologies like DocuSign, Capture Software and Document Management Software.
Third of all Covid19 spawned the recession, not as bad as the Great Recession because Governments printed absurd amounts of cash to avoid a catastrophic financial crash. Thus technology developed over those COVID years of 2020, 2021 and 2020 further reduced the volume of printed pages in the modern office.
There's been some small gains in recent months with print because many of the major market areas are trying to get people back to work. Bad habits are hard to break and that's helped our industry somewhat. From what I've read the overall percentage drop of page volume is 25-35% from 2019. For those off us in secondary and rural markets many dealers claim that the drop is much lower than the major markets and that estimate is 10%-15%.
Major Headaches Still Out There
I've read that the supply chain might never go back to where it was in 2019. There's just too many variables in play with lingering COVID zero tolerance in China. Threatened rail strikes here in the US and the recent revolt of the Chinese people because of Covid lock downs can threaten the fragile supply chain yet again.
When was the last time we really factored in the cost for a sheet of paper? Cut sheet paper costs have been rising, thus the question becomes when will the cost for paper be higher than the cost per page? A quick review at Amazon puts the cost per page for standard letter paper at the cost of penny per page. Thus what happens when the cost per page rises to 2 cents per page or more?
The Last Generation
Those of us in the industry today are possibly the last generation that will sell a digital copier. If you're the young of of 30, then by the time you're 50 copiers will have gone the way of the typewriter.
As I write this I also realize that businesses that offer print can still be profitable with the existing clicks. Of course with clicks eroding, the cost of producing prints will continue to go higher every year. It might be fair to say that low volume prints could start at 2 cents and rise to 3 cents per page in the next couple of years (office print). This might offset some of the losses with declining print volumes.
Will our industry die?
Nope, there is no chance of that happening. Our industry's core is technology. As users during COVID learned to adapt with not printing, our industry has already adapted to offering new technologies and services and we'll continue to evolve as events change the course of print.
In 2043 what's the next break and fix with planned obsolescence?
I heard you on the wireless back in '52
Lying awake, intently tuning in on you
If I was young, it didn't stop you coming through
They took the credit for your second symphony
Rewritten by machine on new technology
And now I understand the problems you could see
[Verse 1: Trevor Horn, Debi Doss & Linda Jardim] I heard you on the wireless back in '52 Lying awake, intently tuning in on you If I was young, it didn't stop you coming through Oh-a oh-a They took the credit for your second symphony Rewritten by machine on new technology And now I understand the problems you could see