ISA International Sign Expo 2010 Wrap-Up

From the hand-on demos and the new hardware and supplies showcased to the growing sense of optimism and enthusiasm on the show floor, the ISA International Sign Expo 2010 certainly showed that there was a budding sense of life for the sign and wide-format industry.

In an industry that focuses on visual communications, there was no place better to be than ISA International Sign Expo 2010 in Orlando, April 7 – 10. Nearly 17,000 attendees from around the globe visited hundreds of exhibitors in more than 160,000 net square feet of exhibit space on an expo show floor that was the largest it has been since 2008. Seventeen percent of exhibitors were new and/or first time exhibitors.

Great Expectations

Exhibitors have been pretty unanimous in their post-show reports, declaring that the show was better than originally anticipated—both in terms of booth traffic and the quality of the attendees—which was good to hear and see. In many cases, the show was a good indicator that the economy and the industry were on the rebound.

"We are really pleased with the show. Both attendee and exhibitor participation was excellent, the buzz was extremely positive and our on-site exhibitor registration for the 2011 show was phenomenal," said Lori Anderson, president, ISA.

"ISA 2010 was more positive then what we have seen in the last two years," said Pete Alsten, North American Product Manager, Zund America, Inc.

"We had a tremendous ISA Show," said Dan Barefoot, president, Graphics One. "This year’s ISA was better than expected and there is no doubt the economy is turning favorably in both North and South America."

"ISA 2010 was well-attended and proved to be an excellent show for Agfa, even better than we anticipated. Sales were strong, a good sign that the industry is moving along the recovery path," said Deborah Hutcheson, director of marketing, Agfa Graphics, North America.

"The ISA show overall was good for our company—although it seemed as if the attendance may have been down the number of customers that visited our booth was steady and met our expectations," said Christopher Howard, vice president of sales & marketing, Durst Image Technology US LLC.

"ISA was a very good show for us. We were very busy the entire show and came back with many good leads," said Holly Szychowski, director of marketing communications, Arlon.

"ISA exceeded lofty expectations," said Mike Wozny, product manager, EFI-VUTEk. "Traffic in the EFI booth was very high and the folks that visited were in a buying mood. A good indicator of this is EFI printer (VUTEk & Rastek) unit sales were up more than 10 percent when compared to ISA 2009."

"Overall, the show traffic looked to be slightly down from past ISA shows, but the optimism in the industry far exceeded our expectations. Industry shows last year had a completely different mood--much more subdued. It was clear that there is now optimism that business will pick up and improve in 2010," said Patrick Ryan, general manager, Seiko Instruments USA.

Trending Topics

What were the trending topics on the ISA show floor? WFI asked exhibitors for their take on what they observed during ISA International Sign Expo 2010.

"Sustainability continues to be a trend in the industry. We saw a lot of interest in our 3M Wall Decorating Film IJ86E which is an environmentally preferred solution. Another trend we utilized was covering the show through social media outlets. Our fans loved watching the videos we posted and photos we uploaded. It's a great way to share the events with those that are too busy to get out of their shops," said Heidi Anderson, marketing communications, 3M Graphics Market Center.

"The biggest trend was of printing systems that featured higher resolution combined with faster output. It also seemed like there were more UV digital inkjet systems and fewer of the electronic signs than there have been in the past," said Hutcheson from Agfa.

"It did not seem as though there were a large number of new innovations shown this year although the reoccurring topic that we found was around high production rates and efficiencies that are needed," said Durst's Howard.

"A few trends were noticed. The most notable trend is the continued trend of improved business in the market. Nearly 100 percent of the DPP have seen their business stabilize and realize quarter over quarter growth," said EFI's Wozny.

"With the launch of the new SEPIAX 'direct-to-anything' water based resin ink, there is a real trend towards purchasing complete 'green' environmentally friendly inkjet systems. We had a large number of 'green' substrate vendors approach us with testing to ensure their products are compatible with SEPIAX. The green movement is real and we are pleased to participate in this market change," said Barefoot.

"An interesting trend that I saw at ISA was the increase of alternative visual communications mediums, way beyond the traditional printed sign and banner. The exhibitors and conversations at ISA showed a shift in the industry to wider acceptance of new technologies and applications that really push the envelope in terms of how our customers’ customers reach their target audience and deliver a message. This included an increase in true digital signage and a diversification in the types of applications being made possible with digital printing technologies, such as new ways to advertise out-of-home and indoors from textiles to very unique and varied substrates," said Claudia Barbiero, Signage Segment Marketing, HP Graphics Solutions Business, HP.

"One of trends we noticed was the increasing focus on environmentally friendly technologies. We held a 'Green Product' showcase at which 20 companies touted a specific green product. Even aside from the showcase, the show floor was full of products that were highlighting some type of environmental benefit," said ISA's Anderson.

"I think the show has become smaller as for as vendors go and that’s not necessarily bad. The marginal players didn’t come," said Steve Urmano, marketing director, Mimaki USA.

"There seems to be a much bigger focus on green products and trying to put some quantifiable measurables around green products. Much of the signage used by the show organizers was green and it is good to see," said Angie Mohni, vice president of marketing, Neschen Americas.

"Specialization is becoming increasingly important. There is a lot of different equipment out there that meets the core needs of the signmaker, so if they are looking to make an investment, customers are looking for something that will differentiate them and add new capabilities to their businesses and take them beyond their competition," said Andrew Oransky, director of product management, Roland DGA Corp.

"I saw two distinct trends: 1. Shop owners were more optimistic about 2010, and many reported increased business since February. Many owners who had previously decided to postpone equipment upgrades were now openly discussing what they should buy in 2010, or what to buy now.

"2. I also detected a financial and technological conservatism that I had not seen in the past. Specifically, customers looking to buy printers were much more concerned about proven reliability and company reputation than in the past. Many were tired of living on the “bleeding edge” of technology, or didn’t really believe manufacturer’s claims about new technologies. So we saw a renewed effort by customers to make sure they were making the right decision about equipment. We were asked to do many more thorough demonstrations at the show, and I think there was less reliance on dealer recommendations than in the past. They were also more concerned about service and support after the sale," said Seiko's Ryan.

"I think the main trend that I noticed was bouncing back from the economic crisis. There was a lot of positive talk on the show floor," said Royce Owen, director of marketing, Summa.

"The upward shift in the economy. Very enlightening indeed," said Jaime Giannantonio, marketing manager, Ultraflex Systems Inc.