Window graphics have emerged as a key advertising medium, particularly for retail firms. Print providers focusing on the niche know how valuable their output is for clients aiming to put promotions right in front of patrons’ eyes.
“It’s a major component of the retail campaign at street level,” said Steve Kinney, vice-president of sales and marketing with Portland Color, a 30-year-wide large-format printing company in Portland, ME. “If it’s done well and done right, and I’m speaking of the creative execution, not just the materials used, you’re bringing people off the street and into the store with the message you convey.”
Window graphics can be a profit center for your shop as well. But gaining those profits requires surmounting a learning curve, grasping the challenges of installation and fending off rival providers in an ever-more-competitive field.
Before exploring obstacles on the way to success, let’s examine some good reasons to step into the crowded realm of wide-format imaging.
One of the upsides is that window graphics, due to their changeable nature, can provide a very steady flow of revenues, said Chris Shadix, president of Belaire Displays, Inc., a 51-year-old family-owned company in Richmond, CA whose business is 50 percent comprised of window displays and graphics.
“It’s always a changing landscape,” he said. “We refer to it as temporary graphics. People dress their windows for a season, or for a promotion. So from a shop standpoint, it represents repeat business from the same retail base.”
Kinney agrees window graphics are something many print providers’ clients must acquire on a consistent basis. “Window graphics are a key element in any brand position or new campaign,” he said. “A very large part of the campaign’s presence is having that window to attract the customer.”
There’s also gratification derived from seeing your product splashed across a major retailer’s window, Shadix added. “It’s exciting to see your stuff up in retail space, and exciting adding to your clients’ appeal to their customers.”
Moreover, this is another niche where client demand is increasing even as the technology grows more efficient. So said Harlan Roberts, Phoenix-based national sales manager with Big Mountain Imaging of Philadelphia, which bills itself as “a complete solutions provider” for its large and grand-format clients.
Retail signage is among the fastest growing segments of the industry, and the equipment available to produce it is getting better and faster, Roberts said.
An example is the company’s newly-acquired Vutek QS3200, a seven-color flatbed printer, which offers the flexibility to quickly change graphics. That efficiency makes for outstanding quality with little wasted effort.
“Window graphics can be extremely profitable if done right the first time,” Roberts said. “They are eye-catching and an easy sell to any client trying to make a great impression utilizing a visual medium.”
Overcoming the Hurdles
Garnering great results and lots of repeat business is seldom achieved overnight, however. That’s the word from Terry Calen, special projects manager at Stella Color, a 26-year-old Seattle, WA provider where window graphics, including window banners, comprise 30 to 40 percent of the business.
Installation is one challenge, and one approached differently at different shops that provide window graphics. “Installation can be tricky,” Calen said. “If you’re covering the entire window, and it’s seamed...It can be hard to install. We work with specific installers we know. They’re not on staff here, but we know them. There are one or two people here locally who are excellent. And then we have people around the country we’ve sought out and found to be very good.”
Shadix agreed. “You can make the greatest thing in the world, and if it’s not installed right, it still looks like junk,” he said. “[Clients are] going to need some help in the early stages. That might mean providing the installers for them, and it might mean providing an educational center or instruction sheets.”