The wide-format sign and graphics market has been under attack for the last several years—or maybe even longer. Go back to the early days of the wide-format industry, back to the 1990s when the technology was just getting off the ground. It was certainly a very different time. Aqueous-based printers stood side-by-side with e-stat. Diazo was still widely used for AEC drawings, but the toner-based and inkjet systems were starting to creep in.
But all the wide-format graphic signage was created primarily by photo labs and reprographics shops—two business types that were very familiar with how to work with large documents and images.
Moving forward, we saw the emergence of a new type of business, the digital print shop. This was a company that never touched anything analog—like screen or offset printing. Many of these shops got their start when wide-format inkjet technology was evolving in the market and they made wide-format digital inkjet their specialty.
As years passed, competition began growing as more and more businesses started to enter the profitable wide-format market. We now see exhibit builders, graphic arts service bureaus, quick printers, commercial printers, screen printers, and sign shops—and even some fine art photographers and fine artists—taking to the technology and grabbing pieces of the business opportunity.
The wide-format sign and graphics market has matured, and businesses that were once small-format specialists have decided wide-format is the market they want to tap to grow their revenues. But as technology in the decal, label, and packaging markets starts to make its move into digital—with new high-speed, single-pass inkjet systems and high-quality digital inkjet printers—wide-format specialists have an opportunity for growth and profit on the smaller side of things. In many ways, the label and packaging market is moving along the same digital path of adoption that wide-format did nearly 20 years ago. In some cases, wide-format PSPs might be surprised at how much interest decals, labels, and packaging might have with their current clients. With a little education and training, the right equipment with the right applications, and specific insight into their customers’ needs, PSPs are likely to find that going small can help them go big.