By Olivia Cahoon
Now more than ever, short-term wallcoverings provide retail environments with exclusive customer experiences. To be successful, it’s essential that short-term wallcoverings provide easy installation and a clean, predictable removal process.
Depending on the project’s details and skill level, several individuals handle installation and removal including retail staff, print service providers (PSPs), and professional installation crews. For inexperienced installers adhesive type, thickness, and bubble-free liners are integral.
Above: Photo Tex patented self-adhesive material is a fabric peel-and-stick product for retail stores.
Today’s Retail Climate
In today’s competitive retail climate it is increasingly important to showcase new products, events, and promotions at will. As the ease and convenience of online shopping takes over the retail space, retailers up their game to keep the in-store shopping experience attractive.
“An online purchase doesn’t provide the all-important shopping experience that an in-store purchase does,” shares Greg Maze, senior brand manager, Neenah. “Consumers still want that experience, that emotional connection they get from exploring products within the space of a specifically designed environment.”
Today’s consumers typically have short attention spans and expect a new experience each time they visit a store. For this purpose, Maze says retailers now find the need to create ever-changing shopping environments. This is where short-term wallcoverings come in.
“Retailers are more strategically using all aspects of the retail space. Where walls and ceilings were once left as white space, short-term wallcoverings make it easy and cost effective to utilize those spaces and instantly change the look and feel of the environment,” he explains.
The lifecycle of a short-term wallcovering varies depending on the retailer’s needs, however, it typically doesn’t surpass six months. Maze finds that most retailers change graphics between four and six times a year, while fashion retailers update by season, and big box stores change out frequently for calendar events or specific product promotions.
To best fit the retailer’s needs, wallcoverings should have an appearance and quality consistent with the brand. “It needs to convey the intended message without sacrificing any piece of the image that it has worked to cultivate,” suggests Brian McElwaine, marketing manager, DreamScape.
Ease of use and material replaceability are just as integral in retail as aesthetic feel and appearance. For example, McElwaine says replaceable high-end materials should always be used for constantly changing promotions that cannot sacrifice appearance—removing safely without damaging drywall or replacing the wallcovering’s glue or adhesive.
“Short-term wallcoverings for retail environments are a fast-growing area for graphic suppliers,” admits Jeff Stadelman, marketing manager, Mactac Distributor Products. “A quick piece of marketing is great for the purpose of getting the message out and it tends to be repeat business for the graphic provider, if it’s done right.”
Not only does the application help establish a brand, but it also serves as a wayfinding tool throughout the store. Aside from the traditional storefront, short-term wallcoverings are found in other retail environments like fast food restaurants, malls, and architectural firms. Stadelman offers, “anywhere there is a blank wall is a place for messaging.”
Short-Term Usage Criteria
Digitally printed short-term wallcoverings are successful in retail environments for several reasons including ease of use, clean removal, and good adhesion characteristics.
With short-term use, it’s essential that the adhesive is removable and can be easily cleaned. “Retailers are looking to switch graphics with certain promotions, advertisements, or seasonal appeal and either turn to a clean wall or replace the graphic,” explains Laura Reid, VP of marketing, FDC Graphic Films, Inc. Regardless, it’s important that when the graphic is removed no trace of the print is left behind.
The adhesive type the PSP chooses is as important, as the proper adhesive should be selected based on the desired outcome, says Steven Yarbrough, product support specialist, Drytac.
Because wall surfaces vary in texture and adhesion compatibility, PSPs should first understand the application and wall’s requirements. Testing the media to the surface—painted or unpainted—ensures application success and removability without damage, shares Joann Dupre, technical service representative, product branding business team, FLEXcon.
Several materials are available for short-term wallcoverings including vinyl, non-woven, PVC, fabric, and paper options. Each offers its own advantages and disadvantages and is selected based on the intended adhesive and wall surface.
While short-term wallcoverings are made from several different substrates, vinyl is the most traditional and popular option. “It has the right surface for simple and quick printability on most inkjet printers,” explains Stadelman.
Although most graphics are printed with vinyl, using a fabric base typically yields more room for error in installation, wall preparation, subsurface texture, and in environments with temperatures that can contract or expand the media, shares Rick Nerenhausen, product team leader, S-One Holdings Corporation. “Fabric-based media allows for contraction and expansion.”
Non-woven fabric-based products are popular because of breathable characteristics and easy removal, says Matt Hatfield, marketing and design department, DaVinci Technologies, Inc. Non-woven materials also exhibit anti-tearing properties, which are important as easily teared materials can complicate the removal process.
Aside from fabric, paper-based substrates are also a suitable alternative to vinyl. “It’s a common misconception that paper substrates aren’t durable enough for commercial applications—except maybe below the chair rails in hotel hallways,” comments Al Bobst, director of new business development, Monadnock Paper Mills, Inc.
Paper substrates also tend to be FSC-certified, renewable, and more environmentally friendly than PVC options. According to Mark Six, technical product manager, wide format solutions, The Mosaica Group, paper contains no IARC Group 1 carcinogens, OSHA regulated toxic metal or carcinogens, and no USEPA toxic release inventory substrates. Paper also doesn’t outgas phthalate like select vinyl substances and it’s typically less expensive.
Installation is Everything
In retail environments, sales staff, PSPs, and professional installation crews handle short-term wallcovering installations.
Retail staff are typically capable of handling small projects, especially for wallcoverings with repositionable adhesives. PSPs and professional installers are reserved for large jobs that often use paste-based adhesives or are placed in difficult positions.
For inexperienced installers, material features for ease of application and removal include adhesive types, bubble-free liners, and thickness.
Wallcoverings are typically applied with a paste or an adhesive backing. Both options offer advantages depending on the installer’s expertise.
Adhesive backing is an ideal option with little mess or setup compared to paste options. Products with adhesive backings typically feature a peel-and-stick model that allows installers ample changes until the graphic is positioned correctly. “There is no need to hire a professional wallpaper installer or create an added step for installation,” suggests Walter Gierlach Jr., president, Photo Tex Group, Inc.
If the graphic’s life is less than 90 days, an adhesive-backed product is usually optimal. However, if the message is longer than that, McElwaine believes it makes more sense to use a paste adhesive because it ensures sturdiness and protection against scuffs and abrasions. “The choice of textures or flashier materials is much broader for more permanent commercial wallcovering materials,” he adds.
While many PSPs and retail clients select an adhesive backing for repositionable characteristics, it’s important to note that a removable adhesive does not necessarily mean it removes cleanly. “The media can be labeled as removable yet still leave residue on the wall,” warns Lily Hunter, product manager, textiles and consumable supplies, Roland DGA Corporation. With this in mind, she suggests PSPs verify the wallcovering’s performance features with the manufacturer or media provider before purchasing.
Bubble-free liner products are available for installers at varying skill levels. According to Hunter, a bubble-free liner prevents trapped air bubbles and aids in reducing wrinkles during application. The liner’s microchannels allow air to escape for a bubble-free application, ideal for inexperienced installers that haven’t yet developed the skill of cleanly eliminating air bubbles.
Thicker films are typically easier to apply than thinner films as they are more stable during application. Because of this, Reid suggests using a calendared product for smooth walls.
However, if walls are textured, calendared films are typically more difficult to apply. “With a textured surface, it will become difficult to get a calendared film to conform to the texture,” she explains. In this scenario, PSPs may want to consider a cast option while applying the graphic with a foam roller. Additionally, using heat can help the film conform to the wall.
Fast, Resilient Graphics
Retail shops with short-term promotions need an easy-to-use material that adheres to walls with little or no tools and experience needed. To meet this demand, material manufacturers offer different grades of printable film with options for adhesive backings or paste.
As installation for short-term wallcoverings becomes easier, retail environments take notice and use digitally printed graphics to promote brands, products, and special events.
Jun2019, Digital Output