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Navigating the Wide-Format Sea

(October 2009) posted on Wed Oct 28, 2009

Five industry experts scope out the year ahead.

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Marx: Wide-format inkjet has allowed the development of a number of applications—banners, short-run signage, etc.—that are the “bread and butter” of most digital-graphics shops. These applications are well-established in our industry, but are also saturated with companies able to do the work. Price is the only point upon which companies can compete. Simply put, this is commodity printing. SGIA’s just-completed Market Trends Survey asked print providers to rate whether specific markets are rising or falling. The results are interesting.

Greene: The usual suspects are the core of the wide-format, digital-graphics business so, yes, I think those will remain the most important parts of the business. But I think there’s a long way to grow for applications like wall coverings. I think there are a lot of opportunities to market these into design and architectural firms for both commercial and domestic interiors. As far as applications in decline, based on the regulatory environment and the growth of digital billboards, I think that is one that could be in trouble.

Williams: The largest application continues to be point-of-purchase and retail signage, and outdoor applications continue to grow as a percentage of the market—from 25 percent in 2004 to 42 percent in 2008.

What type of print providers win right now—the “early adopters” or the “wait and see” shops?

Dundas: “Wait and see” probably isn’t a feasible option for most firms in the contemporary world of business. Even in difficult economic times like the present, adopting new technology represents a key strategy for maintaining a competitive edge. But any new technology, of course, also must represent a good fit in terms of a firm’s core business model.

Marx: There are a lot of shops playing “wait and see” right now, and it’s perfectly understandable for companies to focus on what they do well and do it with the equipment they have until times are a bit more certain. While that is going on, however, other enterprising companies are gearing up and training up to hit the ground running and emerge from the downturn stronger, better equipped, and ready to again grab for the brass ring. Being ready requires training, investment, and a bit of a gamble. Waiting to see what happens puts companies in a reactive mode. For the “big prize,” I’d bet on an early adopter.