In this year’s U.S. Top 20 Report, one theme frequently discussed by industry executives was how difficult it is to determine what lies ahead in 2003. The first quarter of 2003 is over, but the outlook remains cloudy. Some companies reported rising sales during the latter portion of 2002 and early 2003, but other companies found that sales were fluctuating on a weekly or monthly basis.
There have been many reasons for the lack of a clear economic pattern. In particular, the greatest concern has been the unstable political situation in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq. For months, it had looked certain that the U.S., Great Britain and other allies would declare war on Iraq. The concern over the possibility of war against Iraq, combined with the additional threat of increased terrorist activities, has been weighing heavily upon us.
As war begins in the region, that concern has been dramatically intensified. Real-time images of bombs and battles and reports of troop movements and casualties have become a part of our daily lives.
Despite all the coverage of this war, there is so much uncertainty about what is really occurring, and what has yet to happen. At the time of this writing, we do not yet know the outcome of the operations in Iraq. So much changes in the region every day, and the “fog of war” obscures the assertion of facts.
This instability has had a far-reaching impact. Weak consumer confidence levels have led to reduced demand for products. For ink companies, that translates into reduced advertising for major consumer product companies and reduced need for packaging for major purchases. Raw material prices on many key ingredients for ink have also been on the rise, as the increase in the cost of a barrel of crude oil has led to substantial price increases in key feedstocks and other essential products. Meanwhile, even smaller financial areas such as transportation costs are on the rise due to the higher price of gasoline.
By the time this issue appears in print, much will have occurred in the Middle East and around the world. Regardless of what has happened, so much more will remain uncertain. It may take months, even years, to sort out the end results of any war, let alone to construct a lasting peace.All that we can hope for is that when all is done, there will be stability and new-found hope throughout the world.