By Cassandra Balentine
Wallcoverings present a high-impact branding opportunity. Retail shops and restaurants let their imaginations run wild, as the creative potential for point of purchase (POP) and display wall graphics is limitless.
Depending on the media selected, wallcoverings serve short- or long-term needs with varying installation requirements. This type of graphic is popular for POP and display due to its relatively inexpensive ability to transform a specific area and allow maximum use from a previously unused space.
“Wallcoverings can change an interior space instantaneously, adding dimension and texture to a plain environment,” comments Jaimie Mask, product specialist, S-One Holdings Corporation.
They brighten and energize walls, rooms, or displays. “Using digitally printable wallcoverings is a relatively inexpensive way to add personality and yet a professional way to upgrade a display,” shares Jeff Stadelman, marketing manager, distributor products, Mactac Distributor Products.
Above: Mactac wallcovering offerings are pressure-sensitive, adhesive-backed vinyl.
Display and POP
Custom wall décor is more popular as designers create unique spaces for consumers in stores, hotels, fitness centers, restaurants, schools, and healthcare facilities. “Companies execute branding, corporate culture, or marketing promotions easily by creating specialized wall and environmental graphics. The films are enhanced to reflect color better than ever and easier to install,” explains Cindy Richards, regional technical specialist, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions.
Matt Buckley, director of business development, wide format, GPA, says versatility is a big advantage of wall graphics. “They can be changed up for different seasons and promotions, or be left up for longer periods if that’s what the client is looking for.”
Wallcoverings have revitalized the POP space, allowing advertisers to make an advertisement appear as a permanent installation even though it is still fully removable and replaceable. “Permanent installation advertising has always given a product that regal or high-quality look and feel. Now this can be accomplished without the expense of a permanent installation via wallcoverings,” recommends E. Tyler Reich, director of product development, Que Media Inc.
Darren Speizer, VP of sales and marketing, Drytac, adds that wallcoverings help elevate the overall look and feel of a space. “Wallcoverings give retailers the ability to enhance their space and convey their brand message in such a way that traditional signage cannot.”
It’s an exciting time for retailers looking to create fresh, inviting environments that captivate and motivate. “Manufacturers want POP options that stop traffic, even if just for a second,” admits Daren Silverstein, president, The CLI Group. “They can reinforce quality points, scream the brand, or simply flood the area with brand images and colors that engage the customer.”
Jonathan Gerlach, U.S. marketing manager, intermediate films, 3M Commercial Solutions, sees a growing trend of a two-pronged approach with POP wallcoverings. “Long-term graphics are placed on the wall and short-term graphics are layered on top and switched out as necessary.” With proper lamination this approach can be cost effective and efficient. He says it’s key to use an overlaminate on the base graphics that can be wiped down and cleaned between applications.
Timothy Schoenbeck, wide format business development manager, Kernow North America, adds that further technical improvements on wallcovering materials offer solutions for changing designs as well as features like protection against mold and bacteria.
Printing and Installation Tips
PSPs should consider the application and the environment where a wallcovering will eventually be installed.
Kylie Schleicher, product manager, Ultraflex Systems, Inc., points out the importance of media durability and longevity of the applications. In terms of durability, many people may run their hands along the graphics. In terms of longevity, determine if the graphics should receive a top coat or laminate.
“Wallcoverings are manufactured in several ways and the end application may dictate the type of substrate used,” suggests Eric Tischer, president, Verseidag US. For instance, in high-traffic applications or restaurants, vinyl/coated wallcoverings are typically chosen. In this case, a more durable substrate and ink may enhance the longevity.
Mark Shaneyfelt, director, sales and marketing, printable textiles, Aurora Specialty Textiles Group, Inc., says understanding the specific installation challenges are important to a successful project. How long will the product be up? What kind of traffic is expected for durability, ease of removal, and cleaning?
Mask suggests considering any environmental requirements in the area where the graphic is planned like fire ratings, Greenguard, LEED credits, and REACH compliance.
The wall itself also plays a role. Tyler Pacheco, product marketing communications manager, Sihl Inc., says the surface the media is mounted on can change the performance and aesthetic of the media if not installed correctly.
“Walls are rarely completely smooth and many materials allow the use of heat to promote adhesion and ensure a solid bond with the wall surface. Because most walls are never cleaned and tend to be a little dusty or grimy, the wall should be tested for adhesion and cleaned before application,” recommends Buckley.
Lily Hunter, product manager, textiles and consumables, Roland DGA Corporation, believes that bumpy walls require higher adhesion than smoother walls. And permanent adhesive is preferred for longer term applications, whereas removable media is a better choice for graphics that are changed frequently.
Consider whether the paint on the wall has low or no volatile organic compounds, what the finish of the paint is, and how long it has been since the wall was painted, advises Richards. “It is important to test all surfaces for proper paint surface finish, paint outgassing, and surface to substrate adhesion and include this in the pricing and time considered for an application estimate.”
Reich suggests running a test swatch on the surface before printing and installing. “It is crucial for print shops to test the media they use—at least a 24×36-inch swatch to ensure the adhesive can hold the weight of the media—before spending the time and money on ink and installation.”
For traditional glue and paste wallpaper installations, “make sure that the wall is prepped with a primer and allowed to dry according to the manufacturer of the primer and paste. This will help avoid bubbles and ensure a smooth finish on the installation,” recommends Anthony Pappalardo, sales manager, North America, Dickson Coatings.
Depending on the media selected and the goals of the application, installation could be simple or complex.
Dennis Brunnett, technical service specialist, FLEXcon, explains that the right media selection may depend on the installer. For non-professionals the product needs a less challenging install. Aspects like thicker films and air egress liners make installs simpler for novices.
“When it comes to wallcovering media, the biggest concern is the actual installation process. Many beautiful printed wallcoverings end up failing because the wrong product was selected for the specific application and wall type,” admits Hunter.
Heather McCusker, wide format product line manager, Agfa Graphics, agrees and says that finding an installer good with handling wallcoverings is sometimes the hardest part of offering this service.
“While many people believe that a standard self adhesive is a simple, cost-effective option, you’ll find that these products are more difficult to install than products specifically designed for wall applications,” cautions Speizer.
Tips and Tricks
In addition to the factors discussed above, wallcovering media providers share tips and tricks for a successful wallcovering.
Silverstein says success is often a matter of collaborating with the designer to develop and edit patterns to minimize material requirements with the aim of saving the client money.
Buckley shares that most products print easily, similar to materials used for other surfaces, such as windows. However, it is important to pay close attention to the position of copy and images for tiling and to allow extra space for overlaps and working the material at the top and bottom.
McCusker agrees, adding that it is not recommended to butt the seams together.
Pappalardo explains that most wallcovering fabrics are 40 to 54 inches wide and need to be seamed. “Make sure the graphic material you use does not shrink or stretch. This creates gaps in the graphic that can be unsightly.” He adds that seamless options are available.
“Using a cheaper material with even a small risk of shrinkage will be a no go, especially as wallcoverings are applied with butt joints,” recommends Schoenbeck. “Using a too thin material will not offer the required resistance for commercial use especially in high-traffic areas. If you need an easily changeable wallcovering you’ll need a non-woven based product.”
Pricing the Project
Wallcovering costs range from economical to high end. “PSPs should price their offerings accordingly. Determining the prices of the wallcoverings is just like pricing any other product or service. There are a number or factors you should consider, including the market, the difficulty of the installation, your material and labor costs, and the expectations of your customer,” suggests Hunter.
Walter Gierlach Jr., president, Photo Tex Group, Inc., points to pricing depending on the size of the job, who is doing the installation, and number of placements. Also, if the graphic is a repeat image and whether or not it requires contour cuts.
Buckley recommends considering the cost of the material, length of the display, proper time to clean and prepare the wall surface, and if trained/qualified installers are needed when pricing out a wallcovering job.
While material costs are always a factor, it is encouraged that customers look at the project costs in totality, says Speizer. “For example, if your material varies from $0.30 per square foot, but your labor goes from $1 a square foot to $3, how important is the material price in the grand scheme of things? To take it a step further, what if your application needs can be met with materials that don’t require professional installation?”
Silverstein cautions against aggressive pricing. “It may be part of the equation, but we feel that there has to be a balance of quality, prompt delivery, and great communication during every step of the production and delivery process. Results count. Keeping promises count, too. Of course, having the ability to print on a range of materials provides the buyer with greater choice. Above all, having knowledgeable personnel available on the phone when changes, issues, or problems arise.”
“Sell the value, not the price and educate your customer on the variety of options out there. Instead of quoting on square foot cost, talk to them about good, better, and best strategies for their graphic approach when building a job. Place an emphasis on the end result and how it will elevate their space,” encourages Gerlach.
Mask warns against comparing street pricing for pre-printed wallpaper you can find in retail to your custom printed digital wallcovering. “It is not an apples to apples comparison. First, the digital wallcoverings base you choose may have a different construction. Second, it’s likely your client came to you because they want a specific image on their walls. If they could find the same thing cheaper in retail they would have already done that. When comparing digital to digital, know your competitive advantages, which include print technology features and benefits, product type, performance, and your ability to service your customers.”
Since wallcoverings are a high-value application, competing on price is not always the best solution. Therefore, PSPs need to differentiate themselves in other ways.
Schoenbeck suggests PSPs can stand out by showing a real understanding of the needs and expectations of their customers, choosing the best suitable product for that job, promoting the specific features of the materials, and working on the quality profile of their materials.
Pacheco says PSPs should provide a variety of products. “This gives the provider options and prevents the need of a competitor.”
“PSPs need to be as versatile as possible with regards to their substrate product offerings as well as offer premium printability regarding dpi, vibrancy, and durability,” recommends Tischer. Finishes, spot or post coatings, quick turnaround times, and a flawless installation are other ways for PSPs to differentiate their wallcovering products and services from the competition.
Many wall graphics are associated with advertising or marketing, and therefore should be high quality. “A brand spends more money to enhance their brand and if the graphic looks fuzzy, is falling off the wall, or too shiny, that defeats the purpose,” explains Brunnett.
Fabric and effects like metallic provide unique aesthetics. PSPs can differentiate themselves by providing wallcovering options along with other display solutions, advises Shaneyfelt.
When selling it is a good idea to focus on the design and aesthetic appeal of the application. “The texture of the material matters as well,” shares Pappalardo. “Many customers are drawn to a textured fabric appearance of the wall.”
Quick turnaround is the number one factor of differentiation, according to Bill Hewitt, marketing manager, Yupo Corporation. “Anyone can find a better price, but delivery and superior service are winners over time. If you can also offer unique features that others do not have, this helps generate more sales,” he continues.
Brunnett says quick delivery, damage-free material, and appropriate price are expected. If a PSP wants to differentiate themselves, they must fill the needs of the customer—whatever they are—and do it for a premium.
Sales teams should bring samples and swatchbooks to show clients the options and materials. “Sample rolls are available for test prints. Doing some installs in your own office space is a great way to show wallcoverings while practicing install,” points out McCusker.
Several features differentiate wallcovering media types. Popular choices include vinyl and fabric. Installation is another consideration, adhesive-backed and pasted or glued options are available.
Selecting the best media for the job comes down to flexibility. While vinyl provides durability and cleans easily—especially in high-traffic areas—fabric offers texture and dimension, creating depth and warmth to some designs, comments Silverstein.
“While vinyl is less expensive, it often appears flat like a decal was put on the wall. Fabric is usually more expensive, but it provides a softer, richer look,” adds Buckley.
Tischer notes that vinyl is durable and long lasting due to its composition, and is best used in high-traffic applications and restaurants due to its ability to be cleaned.
Fabrics and heavier gauge vinyl are ideal for not-so-smooth walls, as they help disguise some of a wall’s imperfections, explains Brunnett.
Speizer says vinyl wallcoverings tend to be easier to print on and produce a consistent color gamut. They also provide stronger durability in display and POP environments where other materials may not hold up to the everyday wear.
Pappalardo believes that fabrics are lighter weight, making them easier to handle during installation. They have a softer finish appearance and a dimensional stability. “Textiles reduce glare and create a look of high quality,” he adds.
Fabric wallcovering media tends to be more design related and provide more versatile finishes and weaves, says Tischer. While it is not as durable as vinyl products it represents natural textile.
In terms of installation features, adhesive-backed wallcovering is popular. Mask shares that pre-pasted or adhesive-backed wallcovering media offers an ease of installation and a shorter term solution in some cases.
Adhesive-backed wallcovering products present a quicker installation process for the PSP or installer, but it is typically a higher price point, recommends Tischer.
“Adhesive-based removable vinyl can be removed cleanly, providing the opportunity to go back in with additional graphics without the worry about costly damage to the wall during the removal process,” suggests Gerlach.
Lisa Schultz, operations manager, DreamScape, explains that wallcoverings that are self adhesive, repositionable, and removable are ideal for short- to mid-term POP applications. Installations that require a longer display time benefit from the durability and longevity of traditional paste-and-apply vinyl or PVC-free media.
Self-adhesive, vinyl-only films should be a no-go as a multi-panel wallcovering except for very short term, as it will inevitably shrink after time, especially as 100 percent of the surface is printed and usually with high ink load, advises Schoenbeck.
Glue pasted install is generally more permanent that adhesive-backed applications.
“Materials to be pasted offer the PSPs the freedom to choose the correct paste designed for the wall that will be covered. Pasting the wall is the best solution for accurate and fast positioning of the panels. The removability of the material is also definitely more likely to be given on a pasteable, non-woven wallcovering than on any self-adhesive substrates,” continues Schoenbeck.
Wallcoverings offer retailers and restaurants a unique option for POP and display graphics. A range of media choices allow for unlimited creative possibilities. However, to ensure success PSPs must select the best media for the environment and closely follow installation guidelines.
Apr2018, Digital Output