“It will take time for the economy to rebound,” said Brian Phipps, general manager, Mutoh America. “But the demand for printed signs and graphics has not gone away. The interest and desire to have these materials by the consumer is there, but it is driven by the money they have to spend. The need for printed graphics and signs remains strong, once the economy comes back the number of print providers may be fewer, but the overall health and revenue dollars being generated by and spent on signage will be strong once again.”
“We will all need to look outside the typical customer base and look for ways to educate prospects about the impact large-format graphics can have on their business as an alternative advertising source,” said Jason Metnick, vice president, new business development, LexJet. “With the fragmentation of electronic media, potential large-format print buyers are looking for targeted, cost-effective, alternative messaging that reaches the consumer directly, whether it’s at the point of sale, a trade show, or a special event.”
“The industry will certainly reach the sales numbers that the market enjoyed in 2007, but it will be reflected in more lean suppliers and with a variety of product mix,” said Monson. “The successful providers will focus on an expansion of product offering and becoming more of a broad solutions provider of communication challenges rather than relying on historical product mix.”
“The successful providers in the sign and graphic market will shed the ‘traditional only’ sales and will strive to be a full service provider participating in the customer’s decision process early with design, fulfillment, and finishing,” said Monson. “New non-traditional solutions will become critical as the customer’s needs have migrated to Web-marketing, e-commerce, and social marketing. The desire to have a single vendor for all of the clients communication’s needs will also drive a new dynamics how sign and graphic market provider supplies solutions to their customers.”
“The market place is clearly changing. We see opportunities for growth in very different places, compared to a few years ago,” said Steve White, chief operating officer, Signs Now.” And while we are disappointed to see some old market segments fade, we are very excited about the new opportunities that are emerging all around us.”
As a “broad solutions provider” in the new economy, a mixture of new and old market niches seems to be the magic bullet when it comes to growth. Industry experts and innovators indicated several industry niches that they feel hold the most promise for growth in the coming year and the highest on the list—with 72.5 percent of respondents indicating growth for 2012—was digital signage. And we can already see evidence of the industry’s growing interest in the market through the special floor section at the SGIA Expo 2011 and the growing number of exhibitors in this market segment at the ISA Expo.
There is a note of caution, though, from Rich Reamer, director of product marketing for the large format division, Canon USA. “The major concern facing the industry is the ability for print providers to achieve long-term growth as we move more into the environmental and digital age. With increased scrutiny over sustainable trends and a strong push to provide digital only content, it becomes very hard to stay relevant.” This will be a continuing challenge as the market moves toward more digital signage.
Fabric graphics was next in line with 68.75 of respondents predicting growth in 2012. “More and more short-run designer and soft signage applications are cropping up,” said Phipps. “As new fabric materials are being introduced with quality direct to print results you will see increased growth for both machines capable of this technology and inks that support it.”
“From our view,” said Steve Bennett, vice president, Digital Finishing Business, EskoArtwork, “digital print and digital signage (LED signs) is growing.” And he’s not alone in his view. LED signage was third in line—at 58.75 percent—and is tied in tightly with the number one growth market, digital signage.
“LED displays offer so much more in instant messaging and visual eye appeal, that should really take off if LED can become affordable to more communication outlets and advertisers,” said Steve Weaver, owner, Steve Weaver Arts.
Messina pointed toward LED displays as well, but noted that “there will be a struggle with regulators in the ability to market the product.”