Print houses in danger as printing goes in-house

Small print shops may not exist in a few years. Firms are more likely to print more of their own forms and brochures in future to save time and money given the widening prevalence of cheaper and better printers.

Small print shops may not exist in a few years.

Firms are more likely to print more of their own forms and brochures in future to save time and money given the widening prevalence of cheaper and better printers. Firms sometimes also want the privacy that comes with in-house printing, says colour print consultant Andre Economou.

"The quick-copy places will only service people who can't afford the machines," says Economou, an Australia-based colour specialist brought to Auckland this month by HP. He says his comments are based on studies in Australia, Europe and the US.

IDC New Zealand market analyst Darian Bird says this is true "to a degree".

Laser printers are getting cheaper and increasing in quality. Firms can therefore afford more often to bring printing in-house, which has seen a boom in the sale of colour laser printers, he says. But since New Zealand is made up of many small businesses who won't be able to gain sufficient use from their own printers, there will still be a need for some print shops, Bird believes.

Economou says other trends include online technologies allowing a change from print-then-distribute to firms distributing data and having others print what bits they want. "There will be more growth of printing, but not paper consumption," he says.

Economou also speaks of declining copier use as multifunction machines make more and more use of printing. Four years ago, multifunction machines would be used as copiers four-fifths of the time, but this is now reversed, he says. Now businesses are using multifunction machines to scan and download PDFs.

"Why keep a hard copy as a master when you can have an electronic file? You print a master file every time," he says.

Economou says this trend is also reflected by companies like Xerox, Canon and Ricoh seeing falling sales of their photocopy-only machines, but growing sales of their multifunction machines.

Economou was in Auckland for the launch of the HP LaserJet 4600, a $5500-ex-GST model which claims to be one of the fastest on the market, printing at the same speed in colour as black and white because of the inline layout of its cartridges.

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