While staffing remains an issue, organizations are investing in technology to fill the gaps

Earlier this year, Connecting for Results conducted an industry survey on the current state of print in Canada. With so many changes and dynamic challenges facing the industry in recent years, our goal is to provide a better understanding of the current state of print to help business leaders make informed decisions for the future.

Following the downturn from the pandemic, the economy was on a rebound, only to be impacted by major supply issues and labour shortages. With increasing inflation and interest rates, the survey uncovered whether Canadian printers are currently thriving, surviving, or somewhere in between.

The surprising results were first shared with attendees at the 2023 Graphics Canada Expo.

Here are some of the highlights as presented by our COO, Bob Dale. Panelists Category 5 Imaging’s Peter Spring and Richard Kouwenhoven from Hemlock Printers gave examples of how 2023 is affecting their business and priorities for the year.

Participation in the Survey

Respondents were from small, medium, and large businesses across the country. However, printers from Quebec and BC were under-represented.


2022 was a good (better) year for the majority.

  • While there is a lot of media attention to weaking economic conditions for 2023, the majority of industry professionals appear to share a positive outlook.
  • The #1 challenge in 2023 is labour:
    • Recruitment
    • Retention
    • Recovery of increase compensation
    • Staff development and training

Performance and Expectations 2022-23

  • While the companies’ performance is not expected to grow at the same rate as the last period in 2022, many believe these items will continue to grow or remain the same.
    (Few projects decrease)
  • Appears staffing issues continue to be, or are increasingly, a challenge for 84% of respondents

Recruitment and Retention

  • 83% of respondents had moderate or significant challenges hiring staff
    • 54% also faced challenges retaining staff – due to a mobile workforce
  • Another major challenge was to develop / train staff
  • 83% of respondents had moderate or significant challenges hiring skilled workers
    • 66% also faced challenges hiring sales staff
  • A wide variety of approaches to attract and retain staff were adopted
  • The impact of increased starting salaries (85%), overall compensation (59%), and benefits (41%) must be mitigated with increase prices (76%) or investments in automation to reduce manual effort:
    • >50% of respondents invested in production equipment and workflow automation
    • Wide variety of approaches were adopted to attract and retain staff

Supply Chain

  • While paper supply has increased, there are still challenges getting specific preferred papers
  • Majority did stockpile paper and substrates and were able to use it up as planned
  • Very few needed to discount paper to deal with overage stock

Capital Investment

  • In 2022 the top 3 areas for capital investment spending were:
    • New production technology
    • Workflow software for efficiency
    • Bindery technology
  • Reinvestment is critical to improve productivity, and mitigate impact of skilled labour shortage
  • Other benefits include improved quality, service, and company value!
  • In 2022 the top 3 areas for Capital Investment spending were:
    • New production technology
    • Workflow software for efficiency
    • Bindery technology
  • For 2023 the projected investment is:
    • New production technology
    • Workflow software for efficiency
    • eCommerce technology

For Peter Spring of Category 5, satisfying customer demands is an ongoing priority. With eCommerce technology and commodity pricing available, consumer habits have changed. Where quality was once valued, clients are now focused on immediacy which poses challenges to bricks and mortars printers. Generally less knowledgeable about print, today’s clients require high-quality customer service reps to fill in the gaps, in addition to the latest user-friendly technology for their digital storefronts.

In addition, return to work delays caused a decrease in in-store marketing which also impacted their business.

For BC-based printer Hemlock, Richard Kouwenhoven says sustainability and zero waste are key as he looks to the future.

If you’re Canadian be positive!

The leading survey question asked participants about overall company performance, and 78% predicted that it’s getting better, with 20% indicating that it is not changing. The remaining 2% believe company performance is decreasing. We can sum this up as, “Don’t worry, be happy!”

That may be an oversimplification of sentiment. The reality is that the printing business is challenging, and not everyone will fare as well as indicated in this survey. It takes good information to make smart, informed decisions, and hard work to stay on top. This is often best accomplished with teamwork. That can be from your internal team, personal contacts and family, industry peers, and professional advisors.

We wish you continued success and keep up the positive outlook!

Thank you to those who took the time to share their thoughts and experience and for participating in this important industry survey.

The 2023 Industry Survey was conducted by Connecting for Results. Led by Howard Conway, CFR’s research department was developed to help print leaders and their teams make informed decisions for their business.

For more information on our research services, contact us!