The 350 Largest Printing Companies
The fact that our 37th annual ranking of the largest printing companies based in the U.S. and Canada, as ranked by annual sales, is now the Printing Impressions 350 — and not the 400 — for 2020 serves as a microcosm of the current, unsettled nature of the printing industry amidst a worldwide pandemic. So, it was quite fitting that we also labeled the most recent list on our December 2020 cover as “The COVID-19 Edition.”
Compiling this venerable list was no easy feat — whether it was tracking down the needed information from a $5.5 billion-in-sales commercial printing industry powerhouse like RR Donnelley, to our 350th ranked printer at $5.5 million. Due to the pandemic, printing companies, large and small, have struggled to maintain their sales levels, and to hold on to their skilled workforces through, in some cases, temporary furloughs and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding.
Since our editorial offices remain closed due to COVID-19, we also couldn’t output and mail the preprinted forms we normally send out as our initial attempt to gather information. So, we shifted directly to email blasts incorporating personalized URLs (PURLs) that enabled online updating. From there, it became an all-hands-on-deck editorial effort of emailing and making phone calls to our database of non-responders.
Despite our attempts, several privately-held printing companies — which constitute the true core of the printing industry — elected not to divulge their sales figures. We did, however, include both Taylor Corp. and the CJK Group, using Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) estimated annual sales calculation, due to these two companies' industry size and prominence.
So, what had been the Printing Impressions 500 for several years, then the 400 for many more, is now the 350.
Large Printers on 2020 Printing Impressions 350 in Turmoil
Nevertheless, the 2020 Printing Impressions 350 reflects ongoing industry trends. Starting at the top of the list, turmoil remains among many of the very largest printers. For example, after filing Chapter 11, publicly-held LSC Communications was recently acquired by private equity firm Atlas Holdings. Cenveo Enterprises — another publicly-held industry consolidator that exited bankruptcy protection back in September 2018 as a private company — instead became a seller in 2020 of various assets to Intellicor and CJK Group. And the CJK Group continued to grow its book manufacturing platform through M&A deals by acquiring Quad’s 1 million-sq.-ft. book plant in Kentucky last July.
Speaking of books, that market segment of the printing industry has shown the most imbalance between supply and demand amidst COVID-19. Quad exited the book market entirely, after selling its two remaining book manufacturing plants to Berryville Graphics (Bertelsmann Printing). Book printing powerhouse LSC downsized capacity by shuttering its large Kendallville, Ind., book facility. These moves, in part, reflect evolving book publisher demands for shorter-run, digitally printed (typically inkjet) quantities produced on-demand rather than in larger quantities on offset presses.
Pandemic Accelerates Commercial Printing Industry Shift From Conventional to Digital Inkjet, Toner-Based Printing
The pandemic, in general, seems to be accelerating the commercial printing industry shift from the lithographic process to digital print production. With the proliferation of e-commerce throughout all aspects of our society, changing buyer habits require more on-demand, quick-turnaround print business models. With all of the uncertainty surrounding brick-and-mortar establishments and a faltering economy as a result of COVID-19, marketers and brand managers seek greater flexibility to pivot, and less potential for obsolescence.
Toner- and inkjet-based production also enables more social distancing between employees within pressrooms, and lowers head counts of press operators and other production staff inside plants — which all help to mitigate any outbreaks.
Some printers on our PI 350 list have been able to pivot their businesses better than others in response to the pandemic, such as by expansions into more recession-proof and higher margin packaging markets; by manufacturing PPE such as masks, shields, and protective barriers; and via wide-format digital applications like COVID-related signage and banners.
The year 2020 was surely one that none of us will ever forget — for all the wrong reasons. But hope springs eternal that some sense of normalcy will return as large swaths of the U.S. and Canadian population become vaccinated.
The printing industry is resilient, and commercial printers are now positioning themselves to ride the expected upturn in 2021 — and beyond.
Top 10 Printing Companies That Made the 2020 Printing Impressions 350 List
Rank|Company Name|Headquarters|Annual Sales
- RR Donnelley|Chicago|$5.50B
- Quad|Sussex, WI|$3.92B
- LSC Communications|Warrenville, Il|$2.84B
- Taylor Corp.|N. Mankato, MN|$2.50B
- Cimpress|Waltham, MA|$2.48B
- Transcontinental Inc.|Montreal|$2.28B
- Cenveo Enterprises|Stamford, CT|$1.00B
- Donnelley Financial Solutions|Chicago|$874M
- CJK Group|Brainerd, MN|$664M
- Mondi North America|Jackson, MO|$650M
Click here to download the complete 2020 Printing Impressions 350 list, including the Top 5 rankings of the largest Book, Catalog, Direct Mail, and Publication Printers as ranked by segment sales. For comparison sake, you can also click here to download the 2019 Printing Impressions 400 list.
Related story: Ranking of the Largest In-plants