Profiting from Wide Format
It’s Not Just in the Niches
by Thomas Franklin
Part 4 of a 4-part exclusive online series
While the worldwide market for wide format graphics hit a whopping $32 billion in 2006, according to the research firm I.T. Strategies, many wide format applications have eased into maturity. The well trodden paths of point-of-purchase (POP) and tradeshow graphics occupy the bulk of the market, and as such, the bulk of the competition.
The retail pricing of both POP and tradeshow graphics have declined, I.T. Strategies notes, but many printers believe there is still room for new growth within established categories.
Scott Snoyer owns a Fast Signs, Inc. franchise location in Nashville, TN. With the purchase of a VUTEk QS2000 he has been "easing into" the POP market with an eye toward a specific customer. "We’re addressing a niche customer who maybe owns a small store or chain and can’t afford the volume" POP purchase, he says. "They don’t want big numbers, but they want high quality."
The use of a wide format printer also makes Snoyer’s existing real-estate signage business more efficient, and hence more profitable. "What used to take twenty minutes now takes five," he notes. Learning how to effectively harness the efficiency of his new printers is a key challenge for his company. "We’ve had a forty percent increase in our volume in the last two years and we’ve only added an extra staff member."
"In the past two years, we’ve seen the fastest growth in our wide format business," states Rex Jobe, president, The Color Place. Vehicle wraps, including professional bass fishing boats, are hot, he says. "People have embraced the concept of the mobile billboard."
"We’ve also seen increased demand in the retail and tradeshow arena for graphics on fabrics," Jobe adds. One area of note, he says, is customized wallpaper for retail establishments and restaurants.
Indeed, according to I.T. Strategies, fabric printing, decorative advertising, and fine art reproduction, represent some of the stronger growth markets within the wide format universe.
"We have seen clients ask for a greater range of materials" to be printed on, states Jerry Manikowski, owner, Digital Imaging Resources, Inc. His firm made a conscious decision to expand from its architectural and reprographics roots to incorporate digital color with the purchase of a Durst Rho 600. The expansion began nearly a year and a half ago and Manikowski says that cultivating new markets takes time. "This is new for us, we’ve created a dedicated sales team for color, and we’re getting the word out."
The color market provides good margin, he adds, "but you have to watch your finishing." Only by effectively automating your finishing can you ensure that you don’t lose the efficiency gains brought on by wide format printing, he says.
The entrance of firms like Digital Imaging Resources into the market underscores another digital truism.
"Everything’s competitive," Jobe notes. "That’s the curse and beauty of digital—it has taken industries that used to be segmented and made it all one big pie. It has allowed us to compete in a variety of different markets, but you can no longer specialize."
The pace of technological change is also a growing factor, Snoyer concludes. "It’s getting faster and faster and more expensive to keep up."