Northwood tips growth for Aust print industry

Kellie Northwood, a key fighter in the battle to promote the printed form as an effective and relevant channel in the modern era, predicts 2019 will be the year that returns the Australian print industry to positive territory for the forecasted period to 2024.

The Real Media Collective chief executive officer says the fact the industry grew by half a billion dollars in 2017-2018 despite a three to five per cent reduction in paper imports is proof that our industry is growing in non-traditional ways.

“The annual forecast for growth for 2024 in 2017 was -2.1 per cent. In 2018 it was -1.1 per cent. So we are getting very close to being a stable if not a growth industry into 2025 period,” Northwood told ProPrint referring to a September 2018 Ibisworld report.  

Northwood acknowledges that there are many elements within these numbers, chief among them being paper import statistics based on tonnage, which would have been affected by customers reducing their grammages and sizes to manage rising paper costs.

“This would impact import statistics, however not in totality, the decreased imports is a fair reflection on unit reduction, however the top line revenue increase is interesting to note as the industry diversifies. Printers are not only selling print units, they are now selling service, value and solutions to the market,” Northwood said.

“We also know that the industry is realising growth in specific sectors – packaging, labels and digital print – and this would influence the top revenue line also and demonstrates further innovative advancements.”

After year on year negative growth figures, Northwood believes the tide has turned and as the industry continues to embrace value added embellishments and extra services the change will only increase.

Northwood puts the growth down to service and value from embellishments, to tactile finishes, augmented reality, digital and workflow solutions – all opportunities to reduce operational costs, improve speed to market for customers and deliver higher ROI with more engaging and bespoke print pieces.

“The industry is growing through the challenges of recent years. We’ve weathered consolidation, misperceptions about our environmental position and effectiveness, now the correction of our industry’s value is here and we are in a strong position to achieve stability," she said.

Growth sectors including packaging, labels and digital production have all increased despite the lower paper imports and she says these sections of the industry wouldn’t have been impacted by the reduction of graphic communications papers, rather customers, printers and suppliers developing solutions and working in partnership.

“Whilst a disrupter, digital and technological innovations can be embraced to advance our industry. Digital print provides great opportunity in both short-run, quick turnaround projects and also into the mass print production in catalogue and magazines. Digital technologies to version and customise magazine advertisements for subscription or catalogues shifting product placement depending on which area they are being distributed. Commercial printers using digital technologies for embellishments and ‘wow’ factor are all opportunities to improve margin and deliver high-end value sales.”,northwood-lobbies-auspost-in-canberra.aspx

Through the collective’s VoPP magazine she is leveraging these innovations each issue demonstration emerging print applications, including purls, conductive or playable inks, edible papers and other features.

Northwood is not taking these industry figures as an opportunity to rest, she continues to drive the industry and the collective she represents forward. Having recently signed on for another five year term at the helm of the TRMC, which is a collection of paper, print, mail, publishing and distribution industry associations that banded together in 2018 to unite and deliver strong outcomes for members and the broader industry.

The first quarter has seen expansion and stronger partnership with NZ with a retailer breakfast event and the preparation of a roll-out of all the current campaigns into the NZ market. These retailer forums are coming to Australia with breakfast sessions in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane scheduled for May.

Her key FY19 projects have been maintaining the campaigns and sales tools for members, she has been passionate and vocal about continuing on the success of TSA, expanding the Awards programme to direct mail, excellence in craft, point of sale and publishing, advocacy within Australia Post to stabilise postage products, services and costs, lobby with clear goals across industrial relations and the popular campaign to stop companies charging paper billing fees as well as broaden the research partnership with Roy Morgan Research to arm the industry with clear statistics on the effectiveness of ink on paper and solutions on how print and digital work hand in hand.

“We are committed from our membership to our Board to promote, protect and grow our industry. I always comment ‘we are the glass half-full’ and celebrating our industry’s achievements is key to this. The merger and the opportunities working in a united manner have delivered in six months alone is reflective that the strategy we have implemented was sound and one that can deliver more for our members and industry,” she said.

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