Nearly 60 years ago, Commerce Color, Inc. was started by president Vince Croghan as a printing services company, providing film and platemaking services. The business now spans into all facets of the printing industry, including offset and flexo platemaking, early photo typography, high-end color separation, and large format digital printing. In the late 1990’s business shifted to the outdoor industry, bringing finely tuned scanning, prepress, and color printing services to clients from coast to coast. Today the company is owned and operated by several members of the Croghan family.
"Commerce Color is a wide and grand format digital printing company specializing in light pole banners, wallscapes and building wraps, digital wallpaper, event signage, window graphics, floor graphics, and a wide assortment of custom vinyl banners," says Tom Croghan, VP, sales and marketing, Commerce Color, Inc. For installation, the company recommends and outsources professionals for clients.
The company’s mission as posted on their Web site is to, "Employ the best available talent, utilize up-to-the- minute technologies, and provide unparalleled service."
The St. Louis, MO company serves a variety of markets from construction to entertainment, with customers such as Anheuser Busch, Coca-Cola, Energizer, Fox Sports Midwest, Hershey Park, Home Depot, McDonald’s, Milliken Carpet, the St. Louis Cardinals, and Washington University.
Depending on the workload, Commerce Color employs between 18 and 24 people to handle production and customer service in its 18,000-square-foot space. Equipment used in the busy shop includes two superwide pigment-based Blueboard printers from NUR Macroprinters, an HP Scitex XLJet premium pigment and solvent printer, and an Agfa :Anapurna XL 98-inch UV-curable inkjet flatbed printer. These devices offer the company the ability to produce full color indoor and outdoor output on materials such as paper, PVC, nylon, vinyl, canvas, mesh, film, wallpaper, and textiles at widths up to 16.4 feet. The Scitex printer also offers the ability to print with dye sublimation. Inks used in the shop are both solvent and UV. Output is processed using ONYX’s PosterShop RIP and Wasatch SoftRip.
The entry of more large and grand format digital printing equipment with lower price points and a faster ROI have made the large format print competition grow over the last five or so years. The demand for large format graphics is strong and, with frequent customer requests for quick turnarounds, business at Commerce Color is fast-paced. Annual revenue generated by the shop has grown to approximately four million dollars. Croghan attributes some of the company’s great success to marketing efforts, which include an internal salesforce, outside brokers, and aggressive Web marketing. The company also prides itself on exceptional customer service and highly skilled print professionals.
Commerce Color does a good job sharing information with their customers on digital printing, large format graphics, color, and other industry-specific resources on their Web site. For example, customers can read articles on the use of color and its effect on consumer behavior, browse success stories to get new ideas for their large format output, or access the company’s Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed. Commerce Color’s RSS feed offers an online list of headlines, updates, and other content about the wide and grand format print markets. Tom Croghan handles all of the creative on the company site.
Most often seen in the consumer or retail sector, floor graphics offer a vibrant, temporary or permanent medium. No longer are staid posters the only available on-site promotional or directional tool. Floor graphics offer an unexpected visual noise that draws desired attention.
Vibrant floor graphics steer customers to special promotions, market new products, enhance trade show displays, or direct the public to a specific location. Innovative substrates and adhesives ensure that graphics will not pull away from the floor prematurely or cause a safety issue. Vinyl substrates are printed and sealed with special overlaminate coatings that can endure heavy foot traffic and dirt, resist scuffing, and withstand UV light. Some manufacturers of materials used in floor graphics applications include 3M, Avery, GBC, MACtac, and Oracal.
To apply a floor graphic, a smooth, solid, and clean surface must be chosen to guarantee a flush adhesion. After pre-positioning the vinyl or film the adhesive backing is removed and the graphic is laid on the floor. A squeegee is then used to push out any air bubbles.
At Commerce Color floor graphics typically make up about ten percent of the shop’s output. The company says they use only the highest quality materials for these projects. Past floor graphics applications include NCAA Final Four basketball logos at the St. Louis International Airport. In this project, floor graphics printed on a clear vinyl were used to add another dimension to the NCAA advertising campaign, complimenting a series of mesh window coverings, light pole banners, wallscapes, backlit signs, and other large and grand format banners and signs.
Commenting on the floor graphics and other work done for this project, Missy Slay, executive director, NCAA Final Four, St. Louis Organizing Committee, says that Commerce Color was tremendous to work with. "There was never an ‘ask’ that was too big or unrealistic for Commerce Color. They performed incredibly well under challenging timelines and the end product was always of great quality."
Marketing at Fido’s Level
In Fall 2007, Commerce Color was approached with a floor graphics project for a pet food company. The project included graphics to be printed and applied on the floor at retail pet stores nationwide to promote Royal Canin USA, Inc.’s Canine Health Nutrition to pet owners, veterinarians, and breeders. The graphics are designed to draw attention to the Royal Canin brand and to educate customers on the various Royal Canin food categories.
In a pet supply store crowded with an expansive array of food, nutrition, treatments, toys, grooming essentials, and other pet care items, an eye-catching floor graphic underfoot can be the marketing initiative that helps lead a customer to the Royal Canin product and promotes their brand over the sea of others. Strategic marketing by a company like the 40-year-old Royal Canin is essential, especially when consumers are on high alert from 2007’s pet food contamination scare.
Graphics for the Royal Canin project were printed by Commerce Color on 40x24-inch pressure-sensitive vinyl on the Agfa :Anapurna XL. The :Anapurna XL delivers a print resolution of up to 363x725 dpi and can print up to 98.4 inches wide. The printer uses piezo drop-on-demand inkjet technology with eight UV-curable inks and can print white.
A total of 400 floor graphics were printed for cat food and 400 for dog food. A final floor laminate was applied to the finished pieces.
A Step Ahead
From wide format to grand, at floor level to atop a skyscraper, Commerce Color has made its mark. With the use of bigger, bolder output such as floor graphics, the company stands to continue with many more decades of success. Consider using their successful business as a model for your operation.