Wide format print is moving, growing, and expanding into undeveloped countries. Print providers from all ethnicities take advantage of trade shows, networking sites, and social media—shrinking the world.
According to a recent study published by the Graphics of the Americas, the 2014 Latin American GDP is projected at 3.1 percent. This number, provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its World Economic Outlook report published in October 2013, is higher than the projected GDP growth for advanced economies such as the U.S., which is only reported to grow 2.6 percent.
With a commanding presence in Latin America, digital print continues to expand its influence across continents. U.S.-based vendors—manufacturers and distributors—are branching out over the border to either sell direct or through trusted supplier channels. Some have even opened satellite headquarters specifically designed to cater to the Latin American market.
This part of the world moves a bit slower and takes great stock in developing personal, face-to-face relationships. As such, distributors and manufacturers alike broaden wide format digital’s presence in Latin America. The future will certainly bring more diversity and noise—in a good way—to the graphic arts.
Slow Down, Speed Up
North America is often on the cutting edge of new trends. Once we try them out, play with them, and then decide they are worthwhile, they are dispersed into other parts of the world.
“The Latin American market is slower to adopt than our Northern American counterparts,” admits Daniel Vasquez, Latin American sales representative, Brand Management Group (BMG). He points to the example of ecological concerns, which are currently gaining traction in Latin America but were more heightened in North America years ago.
Latin America certainly expresses an increasing interest in environmentally friendly products and practices, according to Koji Imoto, VP export sales, Mimaki USA, Inc.
In addition, like North America—just at a slower pace—Fernando Urteaga, group manager commercial printing Latin America, Epson, says analog printing moving to digital, short run as a market demand, and high print quality are all standards expected in Latin America now.
“U.S. businesses tend to be early adopters of technology and also tend to set trends for other countries around the world. Accordingly, the Latin American market today reflects many of the dynamics we first saw emerging in the U.S. a few years back,” shares Amado Lara, international sales manager, Latin American region, Roland DGA Corporation.
Lara provides another example, such as how until recently Latin America largely focused on just a few applications. Today, however, a number of businesses diversify their product mix to include vehicle wraps and textiles. The U.S. on the other hand has been well diversified for awhile.
A Cultural Business Identity
Latin American-based business owners maintain an identity that is conducive to the rich culture and heritage of the nation. Urteaga explains that Latin America is a much more price-sensitive culture. “End users expect a quicker return on investment, as the economy is driven in large part by micro-businesses, many family owned,” he continues.
Bart Fret, director of sales, large format, GMG, agrees saying that it’s harder to sell large capital equipment in Latin America. “Money is a bigger thing, a cultural thing. There are expectations of making the process more social and negotiations are more deliberate,” he shares.
The social aspect of business dealings influences buying and selling. “Business is done so much on face-to-face relationships. It is much more difficult to leverage online buying and utilize Web-based tools for selling and marketing materials,” explains Phil LaFata, VP- sales and marketing, Arlon Graphics, LLC.
According to Fernando A. Tissnés, sales manager – Latin America, Seiko Instruments U.S.A., Inc., price pressures in Latin America are more aggressive due to the higher cost of money.
Cost is paramount, but quality is still of great concern. “I am seeing a shift towards better quality and longer lasting products. Customers buying purely on price seem to be fading away and business owners are looking more at quality printing and longer lasting equipment,” shares Chris Jaeger, sales engineer, Latin America, Mutoh America, Inc.
Lara agrees, citing the recent trend of quality standards increasing across the market. “The trend is fueled by advancements in printhead, ink, and media technology. It is also the result of an increasingly sophisticated consumer in the Latin American marketplace. Companies realize that they benefit from investing in higher end graphics.”
Application versatility is popular in North America, and gaining traction in Latin America. The ability to utilize wide format digital print as a means to end is seen in a different light.
“In general, in Latin America, wide format is not only seen as a commercial application, in the context of photo, proofing, or signage markets, but wide format is described and executed as an on demand business model,” shares Epson’s Urteaga.
Urteaga is on point, with sublimation printers making a huge push into the Latin American marketplace as more buyers look for personalized apparel items and soft signage. “The ability to produce short, customized runs profitably is helping businesses capitalize on this market trend,” continues Lara.
“Demand for intermediate grade and premium grade products will continue to expand as buyers become more savvy and demand longer term, higher quality graphics and installations,” adds LaFata.