By Elizabeth Quirk
Digitally printed soft signage is thriving. Used in display and point of purchase (POP) environments, it offers big brands an elegant look to promote products and promotions. And for those looking to stay “green,” fabric also offers environmentally friendly advantages.
In its early days, fabric was mainly used for hanging banner signage and as signage attached to metal truss systems. However, applications have evolved since then to feather flags, pop up displays, stretch wrap banners, and silicone edge graphics (SEG), according to Sharon Roland, advertising and PR manager, Fisher Textiles.
Today, the use of fabric in display and POP is the direction more retailers are taking as it can offer a higher end look over rigid signage, is easily manageable for storage, and reduces shipping costs, which is a huge factor when planning a national rollout. What’s more, fabric provides an enhanced visual appearance and introduces the sense of touch.
Above: Verseidag’s Backlit Select FR (B4420) is used for digital print applications.
“Retailers like the luxurious look and feel of a variety of fabrics to replace vinyl products, rigid materials, and papers that may have been previously used. The environmental benefits—non-PVC, recyclability of textiles, and recycled content—are also a benefit to retailers and designers,” shares Mark Shaneyfelt, director of sales and marketing – print media, Aurora Specialty Textiles Group, Inc.
Eric Tischer, president, Verseidag US, says the explosion of soft signage can be attributed to excellent print quality coming from dye-sublimation, UV, and latex printers, as well as advancements in fabric and ink receptivity. The ability to use lightweight fabrics that can be folded—as most are wrinkle resistant and re-usable—and shipped to reduce freight costs, and then easily installed by store personnel into SEG frames or display systems has made fabrics a mainstay in soft signage applications.
“With the use of a reusable SEG fabric framing system, it provides the ability to swap out graphics easier and more frequently, increasing opportunities for brand engagement and ease of installation,” adds Paul Grider, director of product development and technical services, Dazian, LLC.
SEG—The Popular Application
Roland argues that the most popular application for fabric displays and POP is SEG because of the clean look and wow factor. SEG fabrics have a slight stretch for an easy assembly and a tight fit. They can also be front lit or backlit as a bonus.
Mike Compton, print media product marketing manager, Top Value Fabrics, agrees that popular applications for fabric in POP displays include SEG and backlit frame systems due to the ease of installation and turnaround time for new graphics as seasonal and marketing messages change. These types of graphics provide brand owners with stunning displays and an elegant appearance drawing customers to promotions.
Print service providers (PSPs) and their clients have become savvier when choosing fabrics, especially for backlit displays when it comes to look, feel, and installation. “For SEG, the intended lighting use is the main factor in determining which fabric is used. Backlit SEG fabrics are engineered to evenly disperse light without pinholes or hotspots. Front lit SEG fabrics are opaque so the frame doesn’t show through the face,” explains Roland.
This is ideal for applications that require a “night and day” display solution. As a bonus, a lot of consumers feel the look of a backlit textile is an improvement over a standard backlit film.
Uniquely shaped SEGs that aren’t the standard rectangular shape are popular for product roll outs and generating brand interest, adds Roland. Fabric can easily curve and stretch, accommodating advancements in aluminum framing to create any shape imaginable.
According to Lily Hunter, product manager, textiles and consumable supplies, Roland DGA Corporation, since fabric is flexible, the frames used for SEG displays don’t have to be standard square or rectangle shaped, they can have curved or irregular shapes. Tensioned fabric towers and arches are unique and eye catching, making them ideal for retail stores and other promotional settings.
Other Ways to Go
The most creative brand owners recognize the importance of changing up promotional materials on a regular basis. Just as a brand would want the landing page of its website to look different for frequent visitors, the same is true for POP promotions in retail.
Compton says in addition to using fabric in SEG frames, soft signage is frequently found in double-sided printed banners, custom printed table throws, retractable banner stands, wayfinding signage, and POP retail fixture wraps.
Jason Amato, print production manager, Dietzgen Corporation, argues that flags are one of the most popular applications for soft signage. These products may also be known as feather, bow, teardrop, or promotional flags at a print production facility. Flags are available in a variety of sizes and used indoors or outdoors to promote a business.
Flags have the ability to help businesses inform potential customers about who they are and what they do. Car dealerships, boutiques, and restaurants are just a few of the businesses that benefit from them. Flags are ideal for advertising a sale, welcoming a client, or exhibiting at a trade show.
“Flags are compact, lightweight, and easy to transport compared to larger, heavier marketing materials such as banners. They can be one of the easiest marketing displays to assemble and disassemble. For use outdoors, simply set the ground stake and insert the flagpole. Indoor use requires an optional cross base, but it assembles just as easily as the outdoor hardware,” offers Amato.
Retractable banner stands are another popular soft signage application. Bill Foster, national sales manager, graphics media, Herculite, Inc., says this is because of their versatility, ease of updating, and overall impact.
Fabian Kampsen, market manager graphics, Heytex Bramsche GmbH, notes that lightweight textiles are used for interior applications such as ceilings and wallcoverings. Due to widths up to 198 inches, acoustic properties, easy installation, and the individualization possibilities by digital printing, customers enjoy equipping restaurants, bars, or hotels with them.
Draping the fabric is unique way to present a message. “The inherent hand and feel of fabrics allows retailers to do creative things with how they present the materials. We have seen an increase in designers draping the printed textiles into unique POP displays,” adds Shaneyfelt.
A Closer Look
With the need to keep up with online competition, brick and mortar stores utilize fabric graphics and fabric framing systems to promote brand messaging easier, more frequently, and cost effectively. Fabric also provides a variety of different types of signage possibilities, delivering a fresh new look without a lot of added cost.
Kylie Schleicher, product manager, Ultraflex Systems, Inc., says soft signage makes installing and uninstalling graphics a breeze. The ease of use is a great selling point and can help stores that introduce products every four to six weeks. The use of SEG frames makes it so that store-level employees can easily put the new fabric graphics into the framing system.
Amato agrees, saying soft signage is an ideal choice for brick and mortar stores because it is versatile, durable, and cost effective. “Fabric signage is more economical when it is compared to traditional sign material. The cost of the sign is typically offset over time by the savings in shipping and storage. In-store personnel can install the signage without the need for professional installers and this further increases the savings,” he explains.
Since soft signage is easy to install and uninstall, it doesn’t require a trained professional. Once removed, the signage is folded and stored neatly. Sublimated soft signage can also be washed and steamed to refresh and use again—if the vendor wants to repeat the same marketing campaign over and over.
Tischer sums up the benefits of soft signage in brick and mortar stores when he says, “simply send a box or roll of printed fabric graphics to each store and have the graphics installed into an already established frame or display. This saves the retailer shipping costs as well as expensive installation fees. Brick and mortar stores can stay up to date with seasonal marketing campaigns and not lose business to online competition.”
Soft signage is especially advantageous for short-term campaigns. According to Grider, it ultimately comes down to budget, resources, and value for brands when planning for these types of promotional cycles. Fabric graphics are proven to deliver high impact, are budget friendly, offer easy installation, provide creative solutions, and support the unique designs that brands want.
Compton offers feedback from a PSP’s perspective and says they can queue up graphics for multiple campaigns and make quick adjustments within digital design files. Since the printed graphics are lightweight, they are easily drop shipped to multiple locations on demand to meet the requirements of both clients and end users.
Fabrics for POP is growing. Soft signage can be stored, transported, and assembled in a snap. The signs can also be cleaned and used repeatedly, so this makes fabric an eco-friendly, cost-effective choice.
Fabric is used to create a multitude of signs and graphics with a softer look and feel over traditional signage. Add a tension framing system and the possibilities are endless. Soft signage also works well as a flag, in a banner stand, or even as a table throw.
Oct2019, Digital Output