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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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Greene: One of the things that companies could do a lot more of is take a more vertical marketing approach to the market—analyzing the companies in their local market and understanding the types of applications these companies may need—from trade-show support to employee-training events, and marketing these applications like crazy.

Marx: Too few companies are keeping a keen eye on all of the innovation that’s going on within our industry. As much as people pay strong attention to the printing device, I think they miss the things that are going on in finishing technologies, laminates, new substrate materials, and in other areas, even though these areas are where much of the differentiation that leads to new opportunities exists. They must also take the time to ask, “How can I use this new innovation to grow my business, if at all?”

What particular applications and niche markets do you see looming large for the rest of ’09 and into 2010?

Florek: Beyond the usual suspects, the wide-format industry can take solace in a number of niche applications. Print providers are increasingly successful in marketing wallpaper to prospective customers. In general, I think decorative graphics are an area of great potential, especially as media manufacturers offer more sophisticated substrates that are compatible with aqueous and even solvent and UV-curable inks. If household spending picks up (admittedly a big “if” over the next two years) retailers may see a recovery and P-O-P spending will accelerate. In general, the increasing sophistication of retail graphics and the demand for short-run P-O-P augers well for this wide-format segment.

Greene: I mentioned wall coverings earlier. I’m a big believer in that because of the potential appeal to a very wide market. I am also very positive on the re-emergence of P-O-P and window graphics for their ability to drive sales, a key to recovery in the retail market.

Any parting comments as readers wrap up 2009 and make plans for 2010?

Florek: This is a tough time for the wide-format industry, but the future is not as bleak as it seems. Manufacturers are hard at work to make their products accessible to a wider market. There has been a flurry of software and workflow solutions that can help print providers run better and more smoothly. The market has stabilized, and there are actually a few signs of life. Still, an industry-wide shakeup is occurring and there will probably be fewer firms operating in a couple of years. The challenge for end users is to communicate why wide-format print is necessary. It is absolutely crucial for shops to explore and create new markets.

Greene: Most of the suppliers in the wide-format, digital-graphics market have resources that print providers can use that could help them either grow their business by expanding the range of applications they produce or save money through more cost effective production techniques. These can include things like sponsorship of open-house events, application-awareness campaigns, or low-cost “how-to” application training events. Print providers should be unabashed about asking their sales reps or dealers for access to these services and resources. Manufacturers want you to work with them. Take advantage of these opportunities. They are almost always obligation-free and could be a real boost to your businesses., corporate branding, and business-to-consumer markets, according to the recent SGIA Market Trends Survey. “We thought it would be interesting to see not just how many companies, as a percentage, are serving specific markets,” says SGIA’s Dan Marx, “[but also] to see if these markets are rising in popularity or declining.”