Wide-format Imaging Magazine recently did their annual “State of the Industry” wrap up with several companies in our space. While we’ll make it into some answers, I thought I’d post our responses to each of the questions. Enjoy!
How is the sign & graphics industry faring overall?
From our perspective, we see several indicators that the industry has moved beyond “recovery” and is growing again. Our Roland Academy training events are selling out. Show attendance is up at the many events we attend annually. Capital equipment investment is on the rise as well, and consumables usage is up. We see these as signs that the industry is healthy.
How do you think 2013 will end up for the sign & graphics market?
We believe this will ultimately be a very good year for the industry, exceeding the peak performance we all enjoyed during the 2007-2008 timeframe. External factors and fundamentals are still in play, though. So, while we are optimistic going forward, we are also taking a conservative approach to our business. Overall, we see this year as a time to capitalize and focus on the growth trend, and believe that this should be the true of our customers as well.
What technological changes and developments have helped to move the industry forward?
There are three aspects of print technology that are continuously being pursued and improved: productivity, image quality and reliability.
As digital printing makes inroads into more and more applications and market segments, productivity is always a priority. We have focused on improving the productivity of our printers with every introduction we have made in the past two years, and we will continue that trend in the future.
As digital printing has increased in popularity, so have the demands of our customers. Image quality requirements in terms of both color and definition have increased significantly. Some of the highest volume customers also have the most discerning image quality requirements. Expanded gamut is required to match the color requirements of a wider number of brands in a wider number of applications. Gone are the days when wide-format prints were only viewed from a distance. In today’s market, the wide format printer has to be able to print a bus wrap as well as a decal that will have a viewing distance of inches. Improved color and print technology have provided a level of image definition that goes beyond simply measuring quality in dpi.
Of course, image quality and productivity have little impact if the output cannot be created reliably. We have seen tremendous advances in color management, delivering more consistent results at higher speeds.
Though it has long been discussed, we finally took steps to have our inks and media tested, and behold – they passed. Our Eco-Sol MAX and Eco-Sol MAX 2 inks are now environmentally certified by GREENGUARD, and we now also offer a new premium quality wall graphic media, WallFlair, that is also GREENGUARD certified. This also means that our users who have been using EcoSolMax over the last 8-years can be assured that their inks are eco-friendly.
We also continue to see widespread adoption of our specialty inks, including white, metallic silver, clear and light black. These exciting breakthrough inks allow print providers to explore new markets and design options, providing a distinct competitive advantage for them.
What market segments do you think will have the biggest growth in 2014 and why?
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 WallFlair product line.
What are the primary business concerns in the sign & graphics market?
From our point of view, like any business we continue to focus on growing our revenues and maintaining our profitability. While the last few years have presented their challenges, we have successfully navigated this environment and believe we are well positioned for a more promising economy.
From a sign shop‘s perspective, we see versatility as a key ingredient to success. There are many businesses that were successful five years ago that are no longer here. The ability to offer a wide portfolio and expand the customer base allows the typical sign shop to exceed customer expectations and grow the business.
What is the biggest issue facing the sign & graphics industry right now and how do you think it should be addressed?
Looking at this question from a broader standpoint, the issue is whether we’re really in the sign and graphics business or something larger. The term “visual communications” may actually better define what most print providers produce today. As applications and technologies continue to evolve, we as a manufacturer are enlarging our view of the market as well. This shift in thinking will benefit us all, leading to new opportunities for growth and prosperity.
Thanks for reading,