Business as Usual
Urban Digital Concepts and WCI Wallpapers offer a plethora of wallcovering options in South Africa.
Printed wallpaper’s reach is far and wide, from its origin in 1675 France using woodblock technology to today’s worldwide printed wallpaper market valued at $4.45 billion in 2017. The popularity of digitally printed wallpaper in particular spans the globe, with the Asia Pacific region constituting the largest share of the market in 2017 at more than 60 percent and players in Germany, the UK, and the United States adding major contributions to the sector.
Amidst the wallpaper giants around the world, sister companies WCI Wallpapers and Urban Digital Concepts have found a niche in the commercial wallcoverings market in South Africa. WCI Wallpapers, also known as Wallcoverings Inc., offers a wide range of ready-made wallpapers, while Urban Digital Concepts operates as a large-format digital printing and graphic design studio for custom digital wallcoverings. The family-run shop has been in business for more than 20 years and handles everything in-house, from design to printing to installation.
While there are certainly gorgeous options, “contract wallpapers are slightly more boring,” says Dean Bassett, commercial director for WCI Wallpapers and Urban Digital Concepts. As some of the first printers to image wallpaper in South Africa, WCI and Urban Digital’s team has more than 150 years of combined wallpaper experience, “so we really do know what we’re talking about,” Bassett adds. “We’re adding a value to interiors – we add a pretty pattern onto it and it elevates the whole wallpaper.”
Urban Digital Concepts’ clientele is around 80 percent commercial and 20 percent residential. Hotels, banks, fitness studios, coffee shops, and offices are just a few examples of typical commercial clients seeking to brand their interiors. “It’s one of the beauties of custom printing,” says Bassett. “They can continue their brand right throughout the walls and the windows, and it’s great because it can be anything you want. You can print absolutely anything in the world.” Urban Digital Concepts shows clients the possibilities of digital print and also provides guidance in terms of its limitations and what is truly possible. “I think the biggest challenge in all projects is managing expectations, and honestly, time,” explains Bassett. “Our production team does a great job at managing projects and getting the wallpaper printed as quickly as possible, [but] time is always against you.”
Bassett sees commercial customers turning to custom, digitally printed wallcoverings for a few reasons:
- Vinyl wallpaper is durable, has longevity, and has an average lifespan of 10 years.
- Today’s wallpaper can easily be uninstalled without damaging the walls. “That’s the beauty of the modern-age wallcovering – you used to rip off the walls and it was a real headache, I can assure you,” Bassett adds.
- Custom wallcoverings offer a look that is totally unique. Bassett explains: “Every year, custom printing – the desire, the need for it – is increasing by probably about 20 percent. No one else has it on their walls. It can only be found in your home, your living room, your office. You can see [this] globally – it’s a general shift in the wallpaper industry to be able to customize everything.”
“It’s very interesting to watch the shift in wallcoverings and the world and quite exciting to be a part of it,” Bassett says. “I love the way the market is moving toward outside-the-box thinking. We ourselves are constantly looking to create new wallcoverings, experimenting with different wallpaper substrates like metallics or imitation wallpapers in the form of marbles and exotic stones. I think if everyone keeps pushing the boundaries, the next five years will definitely be exciting and I’m glad to be part of it.”