What does the future hold for Mid-Sized Book Manufacturers?

The US book business continues to struggle in these challenging economic times.  Margins are under increasing pressure, competition is increasingly global, and consequently there is a strong reluctance to reinvest in the business – who knows what will happen over the coming year?  While these concerns are certainly justified, the decision to put off investments may not be.  Looking at our industry as a whole, there is a significant trend which has been developing over the past few decades– the biggest firms continue to grow and acquire smaller ones.  They enjoy economies of scale in sales, purchasing, and distribution.  There are fewer and fewer small printers overall, but they still make up most of the industry in terms of numbers of companies.  In just a few years we will experience what has already happened to drugstores, large retail chains, and lumber yards – only a few will survive, but they will grow and thrive because they have a better customer-centric solution than their competition.  The mid-sized players are the ones feeling the greatest pressure, and in my view, the most vulnerable to not taking investment action right now.    As the overall book market continues to shrink, these firms must find ways to maintain their current customer base while reinventing themselves to offer new products and services to attract others.  The strategies that enabled these companies to grow over the past few decades are longer relevant.  Taking a page from the success stories in other industries may be a good starting point.  What were the critical factors that set them apart from the pack?  How are they viewed as “different” by their customers?  Answering these questions may be the start of real change. . . . . .  let me know if you have a success story you want to share . . . . .

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