Leading the Pack
The wide-format market keeps on growing. According to a Specialty Graphics Imaging Association (SGIA) survey, median sales growth was 16 percent in 2012 (nearly four points higher than expected) and 67.5 percent of surveyed companies thought 2014 would be more profitable than 2013. InfoTrends predicts that the wide-format industry, currently valued at $17 billion, will grow 7.9 percent per year and reach $23.6 billion by 2016.
If the numbers aren't swaying you, maybe a look around will. Jeffrey Stadelman, marketing manager for Stow, Ohio-based MACtac, noted that nearly every market uses wide format printing in some capacity. "[It] can be found everywhere, such as sports arenas, automotive applications, transit, commercial interest, long-term interior and exterior applications, and promotional applications," he said. "Wide format is everywhere you look."
That's good for distributors, but it also brings a new set of challenges. In a big market that keeps getting bigger, competition is fierce—how do you sell wide format when everyone else is selling it, too? You've got to know the best ways to separate yourself from the pack.
What to Look for in Materials
There's only so much you can do with signage to keep things fresh. You can offer lots of colors and high definition, but that's not exactly hard to find now that digital printers are so prevalent. You can go big—real big—but businesses that need 50x100' signs are a fairly small subset of the overall wide-format market. Your best bet? Sign materials beyond the standard paper and vinyl.
Sharon, Pennsylvania-based Victor Printing Inc. is one printer experimenting with different substrates, especially wood. "We're doing a lot of unique construction and printing on wooden substrates," said Craig Belcik, Victor Printing's national sales manager. "We do build wooden plank signs that have an old, retro look, that are going into breweries, brewpubs, restaurants and wineries. [...] The clients like the look of the wood, they like that the gaps between the boards open up, the knots, if there are any defects in the wood—there's just a lot of character and warmth to the nature of what these look like."