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Talking Shop

(April 2008) posted on Wed Apr 09, 2008

Print providers discuss the state of the industry at the Signage and Graphics Summit.

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By Clare Baker, Tom Zeit

One of the event’s most anticipated features was the annual Buyers’ Panel, in which senior buyers of signage and graphics from some of America’s biggest corporations discussed what they’re looking for and how they choose vendors. This year’s panel included Bob Rorke from AT&T Mobility, Ted Glauth from Coors, and Sue Miller-Payton from Wal-Mart. Each of the panelists suggested that although price will always be an important factor in selecting their graphics suppliers, vendors who can offer innovative solutions and value-added services can win contracts over lower-priced bidders. They also emphasized that because exciting new methods are being developed for far more accurately measuring the effectiveness of P-O-P displays, they foresee an increasing interest in purchasing in this area, regardless of the anticipated economic downturn overall.

Summit attendees were particularly intrigued by Glauth’s comments concerning Coors distributors. Approximately 85 percent of the beer company’s 500 distributors now have their own in-house print and production facilities, he reported, allowing them to customize point-of-sale signage (working from Coors-provided templates) and to do final output and finish work in-plant. When this program first began, Glauth assumed that the costs in hardware and software as well as the necessary training would become too much of an investment for distributors, but that hasn’t been the case. "They’ve been patient to stick with it as they’ve made mistakes," he says, "and, now, they’ve re-set their customers’ expectations."

In another of the most popular sessions at the conference, "Is It Easy Being Green? Or Profitable?," three panelists from print shops that had taken steps to make green manufacturing a key strategic campaign offered their thoughts on how their companies have become greener and how they’re marketing those initiatives to prospective clients. They suggested that the first steps in going green should be internal-reduce waste, adopt recycling practices, and implement lower-voltage lighting. The panelists also discussed the eco-friendly consumables they use, as well as how they deal with the increase in the costs of orders. Acknowledging that there’s a limit to what customers are willing to pay, Jon Zinsmeyer of The Big Print in Seattle said that selling green jobs to big customers versus small customers is usually easier.