Market feedback on the state of the industry.

What's the biggest challenge you’ll face in the next 12 months? That’s one of the questions we asked over 250 trade industry signage, print, textile, wrap, graphic and tint professionals recently in our customer experience survey. 

Given the current state of New Zealand business confidence (weak) there were no great surprises in the answers, but perhaps it can give us pause for thought into how we go about and tackle these issues.

There was quite an even spread across the comments, but all in all, over 50% of comments involved one of the following themes:

1.     There is an increase in competition driving prices down

2.     Maintaining margins as pricing lowers and costs increase, is a challenge

3.     Retaining and gaining new sales in poor economic conditions is difficult


1. Finding growth whilst staying profitable is a hard task

Overall there was a pessimistic outlook throughout the majority of comments, that’s in line with a general lack of business confidence in New Zealand right now, and in a lot of ways the many comments we received about ‘undercutting competitors’ and ‘competitors using cheap products’ are comments one hears every year (not just in a slowing economy), however, we are seeing a surge in competitive activity as customers and suppliers alike battle it out for business. 

Here's a snapshot:

“I believe the lack of business confidence in our current government has caused a slump in general business over the last 4-6 months. My biggest challenge is to try and lift my turn over back to what it was last year.”

“Maintaining the level of quality and service we provide already but still remaining a competitive player in the market to where we can still deliver the best signage solutions possible at the right price.”

“This industry has always been very competitive, and you have to just keep trying to offer great friendly service and a competitive price.”

2. The Good News

 A cool 10% bucked this trend, saying that keeping up with their workload and growth of their business was going to be their biggest challenge. Many specifically mentioned keeping rising costs in check through better processes as they grow, as their biggest challenge.

“Maintaining operational efficiency and excellence whilst constantly having market demand push our boundaries of output capacity......”

 "Keeping up!"

3. We’re excited about new technology

Keeping up with technology was another 12-month challenge for our customers, with digital screens getting a specific mention time and again. Mostly positive, however, there was a smattering of concern about how this new technology was going to compete with traditional signage. For the most part, customers were excited about this, and other new technologies, and the doors they could potentially open to new markets for them.

“We are looking into expanding into different areas, digital screens, flat bed printers, routers. So, for us there is a lot of movement and some new areas we are approaching, exciting stuff.”

“Staying one step ahead and pushing more digital, LEDs and screens as this is where the market will be heading.”

4. Finding quality staff is a real issue

The signage industry, in particular, is in a very tight labour market. Finding and keeping skilled tradesmen and women is a real challenge, and has been for many years.

“Defining ourselves in the market, growing the company with the correct talented guys to join our team. Our industry is struggling to have a steady flow of young guys coming through and everyone is turning to contracting”

“Our biggest challenge will be finding staff. We can have all the work in the world and the best products to produce them but if there's no-one to make and install the jobs, then there's no business.”

5. Other Mentions

There was a number concerned specifically with compliance costs and red tape, particularly around the new Health and Safety legislation. Time management, or lack thereof, was also a challenge with many needing more hours in the day! Getting paid for design work (and getting paid in general) was another issue that was mentioned, and I really liked this comment: 

“Our imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, in-depth product knowledge and other related skills we pour into a clients, sometimes strange, requests are what makes that sign or display worth something, not what it's made of. Bad/Poor Design = Bad/Poor Results no matter how much you pour into what it's made of. And in this day and age of 'Free Design' and '$5 Logos' the perceived value of our collective skills that make a sign/display actually deliver the results the client wants.... is almost zero.”

So there you have it. A snapshot of our industry in 2019. You can either look at it with a negative or a positive lens. Business, however, is an infinite game and you can never ‘win’ in a game with no finish line. Just keep playing. Stay in the arena. Keep ahead of the changes. Lead with impact. Reframe your competition and appreciate them for the drive they give us to be innovators and forward thinkers.

For me, the most important trends in 2019 are sustaining a culture of trust and transparency. We’re in this for the long game, not the short. Short-termism, lack of cooperation, and lack of trust are the real killers of good business. 

TAKEAWAYS: Focus on more profitable products. Add new revenue streams. Differentiate yourself from your competitors. Reduce cost through efficiencies and better processes. Build your customer relationships. Build your brand value. Market yourself and the value you add. Plan for the long term. And, be grateful for all that you have. 

If you want to talk about how Computaleta could help you plan strategies into new markets, to get a piece of blue sky for your company, contact

*All comments are verified but will remain anonymous.