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Though 2005 was a healthy year overall for manufacturers in the specialty printing industry, a soft fourth quarter foretold challenges ahead in 2006, according to a new study released by NASMA, the North American Specialty Printing Manufacturers’ Association.
          Nine of every ten respondents to NASMA’s first Manufacturers’ Business Outlook Barometer (MBOB) study reported gross sales increases in North America of more than 1% from calendar year 2005 to 2004, with 29% reporting sales increases of 11% or higher. Only 10% claimed sales were level at  1%, and none reported a decline of more than 1%. The story wasn’t quite as positive for gross margins (reported as a percentage of gross sales), though 62% still reported year-to-year increases in profitability.
          But as sales slowed and costs rose during the fourth quarter of 2005, the picture changed. Gross sales were either level or down for 35% of the respondents compared to Q3 2005, and only 38% reported increases in quarter-to-quarter gross margins. More than half of those reporting a decrease in gross margin in the fourth quarter cited an increase in raw material costs or other increased expenses as the reason for the change.
          The MBOB study is designed to be a quick indicator of the health of the specialty-printing industry’s manufacturing sector. Conducted by Robstan Group, the Kansas City-based association management firm employed by NASMA, the study compiles sales and profit data contributed anonymously by the association’s 30 members. NASMA will conduct the MBOB study quarterly.
          In 2005, NASMA released its first Market Metrics study, charting detailed sales and manufacturing data for most screen-printing consumables including graphics inks, mesh, and stencilmaking products. NASMA is conducting that study again in 2006, adding textile inks to the list of surveyed products. As NASMA membership grows and is believed to encompass a majority of market share in a class of product, the association plans to add other categories of screen and digital equipment and consumables to the reports. All NASMA research is available only to members in full standing. For more information on NASMA, contact executive director Harold Johnston at 816-506-1686 (, or visit

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