When we reflect on 2001, it is hard to come up with any particularly positive note. We’ve witnessed a savage series of terrorist attacks in the U.S. on Sept. 11 that killed nearly 4,000 people. There has been a year-long economic slump in the U.S. Anthrax spores sent through the mail by an unknown terrorist or terrorists have killed additional people.
These attacks have impacted so many families and friends of the victims; their loss is incomprehensible. It has also affected countless people working in industries that have been hurt by the attacks, either directly (airlines, travel industries) or indirectly (advertising, printing). Reports of major layoffs in many industries are a grim daily reminder of what is happening in the world of business.
The printing industry is, or course, of direct interest to the ink industry. Throughout the first three quarters of 2001, surveys conducted by the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) have found that publication, commercial and packaging ink sales are down significantly from the previous year.Publication and commercial inks are down 6.2 percent by sales; packaging is down by 3.2 percent.
These declines have serious ramifications for ink companies and their suppliers alike. Prices become tighter, as companies struggle for shrinking business. Companies have to implement a wide variety of cost-saving options, including hiring freezes and in some cases, layoffs. Such cutbacks impact the ability of companies to serve their clients as well, which then becomes a recurring cycle.
Still, there are opportunities: new products are being developed that may have a strong impact on the industry, and companies are working on developing new synergies and programs to improve their ability to serve their customers. Entrepreneurial, innovative companies are the ones that will thrive in difficult times.
Unfortunately, the new year does not necessarily bring with it an immediate salve for our nation and its economy. All indicators point to at least a few more sluggish quarters, with the best hope for an economic recovery seemingly centered on the halfway point of 2002.
Still, the beginning of a new year always brings with it optimism. Perhaps that, along with the knowledge that the U.S. is strong enough to overcome adversity, is what we need most during these troubled times.