Another Banner Year for Wide-Format Printing
From vehicle wraps to outdoor store signage, there is no shortage of wide-format products on display. We are constantly being directed, both consciously and subconsciously, to company advertisements and other calls to action thanks to these products, and they continue to remain a huge power player in the print world.
This is great news for distributors who are looking for new opportunities and increased profits. In fact, according to a report from Ink World Magazine, the large-format printer market was valued at $8.7 billion in 2018, and it is forecasted to reach $11.4 billion by 2025. The publication attributed this wide-format surge to an increased demand for large-format printing in the textile, advertising and packaging industries; increased usage of UV-curable inks in outdoor advertising, CAD and technical printing applications; and digital documentation in commercial printing applications. In other words, distributors have a lot to take advantage of in this sector, and there’s no better time to start than right now.
To help you navigate the evolving wide-format landscape, we asked two experts for their answers to the most important industry questions. Here, Anthony Rouse, president and CEO of Team Concept Printing, Carol Stream, Ill.; and Bob Hessinger, president of MegaGrafix, Erie, Pa., share their knowledge.
1. Why is the Wide-Format Market a Smart Move for Distributors?
While we already gave you some compelling numbers in the introduction, our experts provided firsthand insights on the present and future of the market, and why it’s a great place for distributors to shift their focus.
“In our view, the wide-format display product line is expanding not only in increased sales, but new product offerings for us at MegaGrafix,” said Hessinger. “We see opportunity for as far as the eye can see—not necessarily in the commodity part of the market, although there still is plenty of business there, but more so in customized products and services.
“We expect to see continued growth as new capabilities become available,” he continued. “Sales will continue to grow and so will unique, profitable requests from our distributors.”
Rouse agreed that the wide-format market is showing no signs of slowing. In fact, his business has seen “crazy growth,” and he said the inquiries for these products are increasing.
In case that wasn’t appealing enough, Rouse pointed out that the wide-format sector tends to be a major gateway to other sales opportunities.
“We have focused on this market as a driver to our other print services,” he revealed. “So often, people order some of our other services, but they also have a large-format need for that order as well. That, along with our full-service, in-house distribution fully ties together the package.”
He noted that while certain businesses have moved away from traditional print services, there was not a business he could think of that would not require a wide-format product at some point.
2. Which Wide-Format Products Should Distributors Focus On?
Hessinger mentioned that the large-format market covers a lot of products with a vast variety of graphic capabilities. Therefore, it can be difficult to identify the sure bets. Both he and Rouse gave some input.
“We get a lot of calls for banners and large store signage,” said Rouse. “Also, with our Zünd cutter, it helps us to be able to be competitive in point-of-purchase work, as well as custom full-print packages in any order amount.”
For Hessinger, trade show displays and signage still perform well, but print fabrics are another area worth exploring. Not only are they less expensive to ship, fabrics and soft signage also can create a more sophisticated, appealing look, he remarked.
Hessinger provided additional ideas. “Packaging and POP/POS displays are very hot right now, especially in small quantities,” he observed. “We are always busy printing and fabricating acrylics for displays and packaging [for marijuana products].
Advances in substrate quality are renewing interest in certain products.
“Floor graphic substrates have really improved in their application, along with window graphics for a myriad of uses (i.e., tinted, frosted, optically clear, mirrored and one-way viewing),” Hessinger said.
And the future of wide-format products seems even more elaborate, according to Hessinger.
“We are waiting for our printer that not only prints images, but converts substrates to 3D images (i.e., custom wallpaper and displays),” he said. “Companies are constantly releasing information on new technologies, substrates and printing quality and speed ([this] helps lower cost). I’m always amazed by the number of new releases, and that goes to show ... this market is growing.”
3. How Can Distributors Stand Out in the Wide-Format Market?
Yes, adding the right wide-format offerings to your services is an important first step, but there are also strategies distributors need to implement in order to position themselves for success in the marketplace. Hessinger recommended three important steps for the sales process.
“Link yourself with an experienced vendor who is committed to your success and one who can help you become knowledgable about the product(s) you are presenting,” he said. “Plan on, and offer alternate solutions—ask your supplier to help you. [Finally,] get mock-ups and samples for your presentation.”
Rouse, too, emphasized the importance of finding the right manufacturer, and he suggested distributors tour facilities and ask for training from their manufacturing partners, as that will give them a more thorough understanding of the products themselves.
He also indicated that an important component of the sales process involves a proper discussion between the distributor and the client. To guide the dialogue properly and ensure you’re giving clients what they want, he shared some conversation points.
“Find out how long the promotion is needed for,” he said. “The length the product is needed will determine the best way to spec the product. Another good one [to ask] is where the product will be used. Inside? Outside? In a window? Will it be touched? Will it be reused?”
Finally, Rouse revealed a common mistake that distributors should avoid.
“I think a lot of buyers still spec and think [in] old-school ways,” he said. “A good example is to print on a sheet of paper and then have it mounted to gatorboard. With the equipment today, printing direct to the board is by far the most cost-efficient. I would say lean on your manufacturer for their input on what [means] is best.”