Textile Printing Market Turns Around After Peak in the 1990s

September 5, 1999

Boxmeer, The Netherlands -- The textile printing market posted a slight recovery in 1998 and expects further gains in 1999 and 2000. This assessment is a part of a recently published report from Stork Textile Printing. The company, which is a leading producer of textile printing machines, sent out questionnaires to textile printers all over the world in order to accumulate data for the report. 1990 marked the peak of textile printing with an estimated output of some 20 billion running meters worldwide, 31 percent of which was interior fabrics.
After a decrease to 18 billion meters in 1997 there was a slight recovery in 1998, which will be followed by a further growth of 2 to 2.5 percent in 1999 and 2000.
Stork's report outlines three main reasons for the slump. First, traditional export printers were confronted with cheaper imports from the Middle and the Far East. With their relatively low pricing and reasonable quality, they managed to capture a substantial market level. Prices went down because of fierce competition among the continents, resulting in industry shake-outs in European countries. Companies were forced to restructure their entire processes into lean and mean organizations that provided quick response, service and highest quality end products.
Secondly, consumers were spending less, and fashion trends shifted to plain dyed clothing and jacquard.
The final contributing factor was the Asian financial crisis. This economic collapse made textiles even cheaper for the other countries to buy until, finally, printers were no longer able to meet the costs of the printing process.

The production graph over the past fifteen years shows a waveform, whereas the eighties were a decade of growth, the first half of the nineties experienced a decline. Expectations for the last part of this decade are more positive and indicate a slight increase in the total amount of printed cloth. Textile printing production will grow approximately 2.5 percent in the years 1999 and 2000. This growth is based on an increasing world population and recovery of the world economy after the Asian crisis. In 1997 world production of printed cloth amounted to 18 billion running meters or 26.1 billion square meters. The share of interior textiles in this was 31 percent, while clothing and technical textiles took respectively 63 percent and 6 percent.
In 1997, the Far East had a share of 50 percent, by far the most important continent in terms of textile printing production. Three years earlier Eastern Europe had a 50 percent share, but by 1997 was down to 4 percent. The dramatic decline was said to be caused by the poor economic situation in Russia and other countries in the region. Western Europe and North America each took 11 percent, Africa and the Middle East each 7 percent and Latin America 10 percent.
"Further development of interior textiles share depends largely on economical fluctuations," said Wim Kuster from Stork Screens B.V. "The share of interior textiles is generally expected to increase in North America. On the other hand, technical textiles are certainly an expansive sector worldwide."

Printing Techniques
Over the past few years, the importance of flatbed printing has slightly increased, due to the fact that printing production moved to the Far East. Labor costs are relatively low in this part of the world and it is therefore often cheaper to use the flatbed technology. Another reason for this increase is the reduction in average production length.
The increase in flatbed printing was mainly at the cost of roller printing. Although there was a slight decrease in the share of rotary printing (from 61 in 1994 to 59 percent in 1997), it continues to be the leading printing technique. Typical rotary printing areas in terms of volume are North America (86 percent), Latin America (94 percent) and Africa (90 percent).
Run lengths in flatbed printing have become very similar to those in rotary and roller printing. The average run length per color way in rotary printing evolved from 4520 meters in 1989 to 2625 in 1997, in flatbed printing from 2320 to 2520 meters, and in roller printing from 6200 to 3032 meters.

Stork inquired also into the use of printing cloth. In 1997, cotton was still the most commonly printed substrate (53 percent of total printing production), followed by cotton/polyester blends (18 percent) and viscose (9 percent ). From a worldwide and all-uses perspective, other substrates play just a minor role. Between 1994 and 1997, the share of cotton and polyester increased significantly. The natural look that has been the fashion trend in recent years has evidently left its mark on the end products of the printers.
It does not come as a surprise that printing of woven substrates is the most important activity worldwide (83,2 percent in 1997). However, knits (13.1 percent) and non-wovens (3.7) are quickly advancing. Non wovens are showing great progress, their share being almost 8 times of the 1992 value. F&FI
The full report "Developments in the Textile Printing Industry" can be ordered at Stork Marketing Communication Department, attention of Jos van de Kemenade, P.O. Box 67, 5830 AB Boxmeer, The Netherlands. It contains data on production per region, the average number of colors, the dyestuff groups, the end use areas, digital textile printing and dyeing.

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