The current recession, one of the worst in US history, has impacted everything from auto sales to housing starts to joblessness. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that the country’s economic straits have also affected the market for trade show and exhibit graphics. That market has changed over the past couple of years, as clients have sought to stretch the dollars they spend on these materials.
The belt-tightening has been painful for print providers who specialize in these products, but it has also spelled new opportunities in some product lines.
Client demand for more bang for the buck has hit just about every provider in this segment, leaving them scrambling to meet their customers’ suddenly altered priorities. Pat Heineman, president of Manassas, VA-based Showcase Portable Exhibits, which is focused on portable show exhibits, banner systems and table-throws shipped in cases or boxes, reports her clients want smaller, more lightweight and cost-effective materials.
“What I’m seeing that’s very interesting is the trend toward dye-sublimation printing on fabrics,” Heineman noted. “It’s growing because of price. It’s becoming less expensive, and it’s also more lightweight. You can have an eight-foot-tall, 10-foot-wide display with the graphic attached to the pop-up frame. The tension of the frame takes out all the wrinkles. That gives you a 25-pound display that is totally seamless and pops up easily. You can set up this display in about a minute.”
The move is also on toward smaller displays. Clients who have long used 8-by-10-foot, free-standing exhibit booths are rethinking their budgets for shipping displays, and are pursuing tabletop units to save money and shipping costs, she said.
Heineman’s clients are also choosing to not order completely new displays every two to five years, and are instead opting to keep existing displays but simply refresh the graphics. Again, the catalyst is fiscal conservatism. Producing new graphics for a tabletop display would cost about $500, she says, while creating a totally new tabletop display with new graphics would yield a price tag of $1,500 to $2,000. Customers may also decide that they’re content with their existing tabletop display, but seek to alter their look by having a new table-throw created, she said.
Much the same kind of client requests are being heard at Keystone Displays, a 12-year-old Harrisburg, PA shop specializing in portable and modular exhibit materials.
“We’ve done more refurbishment of displays and rental of displays,” said shop president Sean Farrell, who added that for many of his clients, a way to get through the next year is to ask only for new graphics, as opposed to entirely new display systems.
The trend toward greater budgetary mindedness is also being seen at Atlanta’s Total Graphic Solutions, a five-year-old enterprise owned by Charlie Rezac.
Rezac, whose company produces trade show graphics, backdrops, banners, and POP standees, finds corporate clients of his trade show products are not changing out graphics as often as they formerly did. “They’re using the graphics over and over,” he said. “They’re looking for cost-cutting types of materials. Before, they may have used a 6-mil piece of material, and now they’re going down to a 3-mil. Or if they were using a canvas type of backdrop, today they may be using vinyl or cloth type materials. We’re doing the same amount of business, and the costs of materials for us are more affordable, so this isn’t really affecting our bottom line.”
Another Peachtree City print provider, Presentech Advanced Print Solutions, has not been immune to the heightened frugality of corporate customers, said David Midler, who with partner Joel Berger co-owns the nearly 20-year-old Atlanta business.
“More and more companies are looking for a means of presenting a quality image for their companies, but keeping a handle on expenses,” said Midler, whose 20-year-old company is 40 percent devoted to serving corporate users that request such materials as meeting and display graphics and trade show and special events displays.