Robertson: Point-of-purchase in retail is the largest market. In addition, the SGIA community predicts environmental graphics such as wall graphics, to be a major growth market next year. Window displays are also on the fast track for growth.
Scrimger: On the print side, we expect to see significant growth in the use of textiles. We are also actively developing a digital signage solution which will open up new market opportunities for our customers. This market is very exciting as we are truly in the process of creating a whole new product segment to help our customers find incremental business. Any growth in this arena is very positive for the entire industry.
Custom print/cut wall graphics are perhaps the fastest growing market segment in wide-format printing. We expect to see a lot more demand for the GREENGUARD-certified products.
Sheikh: Growth will continue to come from the segments that are expanding into digital large-format graphics either to augment what they do now (such as packaging); or to generate entirely new revenues by offering additional products and services (like commercial printers). Although the transition from analog to digital printing is not new, analog still has the biggest share of the print volumes; with continued change in customer requirements of shorter and shorter print run lengths and variable data, digitally produced print output will continue to grow.
There are also manufacturers that are seeing the benefit of incorporating digitally produced products/decoration into their manufacturing workflow that traditionally used, for example, screen printing processes.
WFI: What is the biggest issue facing the sign & graphics industry right now and how do you think it should be addressed?
Amerine: Cost reduction appears to be the biggest driver in the market. There is plenty of competition driving prices down while at the same time there is customer demand to produce shorter runs with faster turnaround. Many printers are looking for the best way to reduce cost in this environment in order to remain profitable. Printers need to look at their entire process from a cost standpoint.
Boer: Many print-for-pay providers would tell you the biggest challenge facing them is the cost of the inks. We disagree, as clearly the value of output that those inks enable is many multiples the value that offset or screen inks are able to create. The average retail selling price across all wide-format inkjet technologies ranges from $2.75 for UV-curable printed output to $4.40 for aqueous ink printed output per square foot. The profit margin (the balance left after paying for HW, ink, substrates) ranges anywhere between 2.7X to 6.0X for wide-format output. There are very few offset document (or even digital document) applications where this type of margin is still enabled.
Worldwide the retail value of output created by all wide-format printers exceeded $39 billion in 2012. While a small portion of the $600+ billion generated from other graphics/document print applications, its profits may well be as large, if not larger than, all the profits of other production print applications. Now that’s worth continuing to invest in.
Kigin: We see the big issue as managing change. The successful sign and graphics business must stay aware of and decide quickly how to respond to the evolution of technology, competition, applications, and business climate. 3M has served the large-format graphics industry since 1952, and we remain committed to helping the industry grow. One of the ways we can achieve that is by listening to our customers and responding to the challenges and needs they identify with new and/or improved technology, more versatile products, and innovative solutions.
Felton: The future is going digital and I think this is an issue that people in the industry are concerned about. However, there is most definitely still a place for traditional printing. Depending on the customer’s requirements, an application can be created using a blend of both digital and analog processes.
Print offers a powerful, eye-catching, and vibrant way to speak to an audience, while digital enables flexible content, which can incorporate other elements such as audio.