Wide-format printers are focusing on point-of-sale (POS) signage more than ever, eager to take advantage of opportunities for sales and profit. Unlike traditional POS marketing tools, printers in the wide-format arena are using new technology and products to boost the sales of their clients and, in return, themselves.
Sustainability is currently one of the biggest buzz words in the industry. Unfortunately, there are not too many people that actually know what it means when it comes to printing. People automatically think of recycled inks and citrus-based solvents but little else. The truth is that the number of sustainable substrates is higher than ever before. Printers have literally hundreds of different sustainable substrates that can be used from recycled and recyclable papers, cartons, fabrics, plastic bottles, glass, aluminum, and more. The decision lies not in determining if there are materials available, it is about determining which sustainable materials are best suited for the job.
Bob Bekesha, vice president sales and marketing of DGI-Invisuals, LLC in Burlington, MA said there are many materials available that will suit the clients’ needs while reducing the carbon footprint. DGI prints on a wide variety of substrates from dye sub fabrics to vinyl and paper. The choices are myriad. Bekesha said: “In each category of substrates there are green options.”
These options are often not without problems. Some companies eager to manufacture sustainable products have yet to produce products that can stand up to the demands of the printer, the client, and environmental factors and conditions. “Some of the materials out there aren’t ready for primetime,” said Bekesha. “They won’t hold up or perform well in certain situations.”
Rob Sullivan, director of Sales for superGraphics North America, approaches the sustainability issue with practicality in mind. While there are many sustainable products on the market, not all are appropriate for the job at hand.
“I think right now a lot of retailers have a focus on sustainability,” said Sullivan. “There are many more options for recyclables and recycled products. You pick your spots where you are able to implement these things.”
Like Bekesha, Sullivan believes sustainable products are not as far along as many people think. “It’s still really a challenge to tell the full cycle or recyclability,” said Sullivan. “A product may be recycled but it can’t be recycled at the end. Nobody’s developed a full scale solution.”
Greg Pried, general manager of Canada’s Category 5, also relies on the knowledge of the company’s vendors and their varied products. Category 5 often works with vendors in Europe and elsewhere since they seem to have more availability regarding sustainable items.
“We tend to work with vendors from overseas because they’ve already gone through an environmental push,” stated Pried.
Staying on Top
There will always be a place for large-format printing in the retail sector yet the economy has made the format and use of POS more difficult as it needs to do more than ever to attract a client and prompt him into buying product. As the economy took a downward turn, many companies thought that the easiest and fastest way to cut their budgets was to cut advertising. Studies have shown that the companies that keep up—or even increase—their advertising fare much better over time. Bekesha believes that cutting the budget is a mistake. “It’s counterproductive to what needs to be done.”
How do printers stay on top and manage to take advantage of a situation that could easily be fatal? It’s simple. The printer must make their work affordable while maintaining high quality and still produce a piece that can capture the eye of the consumer. Quick turn around and flexibility are two big assets when selling to retailers, particularly smaller retails that may be more apt to make changes with very little notice.
DGI is a true 3M house, offering high quality adhesives and stocks. The costs on these products may be slightly higher, but to Bekesha, the cost is well justified since he can be sure that the products will perform well every time. Other products may cause the printer to re-run a job or create huge issues for the installers.
Category 5’s Greg Pried has noticed a shift in client demands. Clients know more than ever about printing processes, including sustainability and recycled substrates. Clients often want to ensure that their printers have knowledge of the trends before they place orders. “My customers are making sure we have those things in place,” said Pried.
How does Category 5 stay on top? One of the ways is through their fulfillment process. Category 5 has expanded their territory, allowing them to service clients even faster.
“We’ve not started to operate on both coasts,” said Pried. “That’s something that’s cut down on shipping costs. That’s a big part of the expense these days.” Pried goes on to say, “We’ve got North American pretty well covered.”
Supply and Demand
What are wide-format printers offering their clients in the new marketplace? Flexibility, speed, quality and perhaps most important of all, the ability to cross promote and target specific markets. Small retailers tend to have a more direct focus on the materials they need, however, their time frames tend to be much shorter. It is not uncommon for a retailer to call his printer to announce a quick sale on products that aren’t moving or some last minute promotion. It is up to the printer to be able to accommodate the client without sacrificing quality.
Speed is just one of the added values clients should expect from their printers. Category 5 is known for being prepared for those last minute orders and changes.
“We’re always ready and we always get it done,” Greg Pried said, “A lot of people use us because we anticipate that they have sales coming up.”
Service is King
At the end of the day, it seems that service and know-how are still king. There are many companies that may have the equipment to create retail signage but without top level customer service, they have little chance of making it in this increasingly competitive industry.
One of the major trends in retail signage depends a great deal on the concept of service and convenience. Convenience stores of all kinds have been spending a lot more for POS these days, eager to let the consumer know what they have to offer.
Bob Bekesha understands that the clients have many needs with a smaller budget. “We have to be nimble to do their store branding and still be able to provide that quality work,” Bekesha said. “We know that they have to go to low cost solutions that look like they’re not low cost solutions.”
superGraphics is also heavily involved on the convenience store market and have found a niche in which they can provide high quality, consistent printing services throughout an entire franchise as easily as if they were concentrating on one store.
“Our best retail clients value our contribution because we know printing is only one part of their needs, and potentially the most understood piece of the puzzle,” said Sullivan. “They look to us for consultation on how to approach and plan for an execution and also seeing through the logistics, constant communication with their team and proof of installation throughout their entire network of stores or locations. Consistent methods and a proven record of understanding their process of doing business is key in my opinion.”