Features | June 02, 2020
Product Spotlight: Wide-Format Printing
Editor’s note: A version of this article originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of PS Magazine. While distributors today are more often fielding requests for wide-format printing related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the information shared in this product spotlight continues to hold true.
Wide-format printing is versatile and can accommodate quick turnaround times. Maybe that’s why we see it everywhere we look.
It’s summer now, but before you know it, the season will be gone and Halloween decorations will be up. About 10 minutes later, pumpkins will be replaced by turkeys; and then, all of a sudden, snowflakes and snowmen will be everywhere you look.
Take your average coffee shop, for example. It seems like coffee shops are excellent at quickly switching out graphics on their walls to usher in new holidays. You walk in one day to see ghosts and ghouls haunting the walls, and the next day they’ve been scared off by festive gourds and cornucopias in muted fall colors. How exactly do coffee shops manage to get the new graphics so quickly? The answer is wide-format printing.
Everywhere You Look
We see wide-format printing constantly in our daily lives, not just at coffee shops. That’s no exaggeration, according to Ted Corman, global accounts manager at Firehouse Image Center.
“You can’t go anywhere now without seeing [wide-format printed materials],” Corman says.
Maybe that’s why companies are continuing to invest in wide-format printing. PrintingNews’ Printing Outlook 2019 report found that the industry sees wide-format printing as a good business opportunity. In 2018, 10% of businesses surveyed saw wide-format printing as a good business opportunity for the year ahead. That number increased to 12% of respondents in 2019, showing that wide-format printing is steadily gaining traction in the industry. But it is still an emerging technique, and it can be transformative for distributors who jump on it now.
“I see it as an underutilized market for distributors,” Corman says. “It gets used in every market that the distributors are calling on.”
Wide-format printing is indeed a versatile investment. Wide-format printing can churn out a wide variety of different products, allowing for freedom and creativity in marketing and production. It’s also an entirely digital process, cutting out steps required for screen and offset printing and giving faster turnaround times for clients.
According to Corman, a lot of the wide-format orders Firehouse receives come with turnaround times of three or fewer days. That would be a cause for stress with other types of printing, but wide-format printing can accommodate those quick orders. With wide-format printing, “speed to market and getting work out the door is much quicker than a traditional screen print or offset printer,” Corman says.
What might those markets be? Wide-format printing can be used as a marketing tool or for decorations across all types of retailers, from the aforementioned coffee shops to clothing stores and more. Meanwhile, you can find wide-format printing in hospital and health care settings, whether as environmental decorations or as informative graphics alerting patients and staff to proper procedures and guidelines. The next time you see a yard sign sticking out of someone’s lawn or a banner stand at a conference, odds are it was made using wide-format printing.
Overhauling Hotels and Stores
Hotels are, for the most part, pretty standard. Decorations in hotel rooms are typically muted. There are almost always several pieces of framed art, including mirrors, but nothing is too extravagant. Each room hosts a constantly rotating set of visitors, and the traditional consensus has been that there’s little point in adding bursts of personality, since each visitor will have their own taste, and the rooms must be universally appealing. But wide-format printing has the ability to breathe fresh life into hotel rooms.
Corman was involved with a project aiming to transform decorations in a hotel. The hotel approached Firehouse with a simple request: It wanted to get rid of the traditional, stuffy frames and bring in a totally new look to its rooms. “We went back to them with custom-printed wallpaper with graphics that are related to the town they are in,” Corman says. “When you walk into these hotel rooms, they have images of the area. They branded all of those hotel rooms in that manner.”
According to Corman, the positive visitor feedback began streaming in immediately. The hotel owner let Corman know that visitors were leaving positive reviews specifically singling out how much they liked the way their rooms looked.
“Those are the fun projects,” Corman says. “You know that you’re leaving your mark, and it’s going to be seen by a lot of people.”
That’s not the only time Corman has seen wide-format printing correlate with success for a business owner. He once worked with a distributor who was asked by a retailer to help change the permanent graphics and signage in 125 store locations. Corman suggested they use wide-format printing to redesign the graphics and signage, and the retailer gave her blessing. Two years later, the graphics have been swapped out in nearly 75 stores, and the business has grown exponentially.
The positive effects of wide-format printing have not been limited to the retailer alone. Corman points out that the distributor has now seen two-plus years of steady business working to design, print and install the new graphics and signage at dozens of stores.
All of that business, Corman says, came down to the distributor being open-minded about trying wide-format printing as a new revenue stream.
If you’re looking for a way to distinguish yourself from the crowd, wide-format printing just might be your golden ticket. Telling potential clients that you can print a variety of products on tight timetables puts you in a very competitive position in the market.
As Corman puts it, “We’re not limited to one form of printing. Wide-format allows you to produce a huge number of products, and that lets you attack a variety of markets.”
3 Tips for Selling Wide-Format Printing
- Be willing to suggest it to the customer. Let them know the wide variety of products that can be made through wide-format printing.
- Visit the physical space where the printed material will go. It will help you visualize exactly what you can bring to the table, thereby refining your pitch to the customer.
- Take diligent notes of what the customer wants. If you’re printing just one banner stand or flag, for example, it’s vitally important that every detail is exactly right.
Make sure you’re an expert on wide-format printing. One of wide-format printing’s greatest strengths is its versatility, but in order to give clients a clear picture of what they can do with it, you need to know it backward and forward. But it’s not an impossible task to get up to speed. “It’s not as complicated as people may lead you to believe,” Corman says.
Be willing to print just one of whatever the client needs. Nobody needs 100 banner stands. According to Corman, minimum printing numbers may need to be thrown out the window when it comes to wide-format printing. “It’s always the question from people,” Corman says. “‘Are you willing to print one?’ That’s not something distributors have done a lot of, but there a lot of one-off banner jobs or short-run yard signs that get produced.”
Get your name out there in an eye-popping way. Wide-format printing can be used for a number of clients and a number of purposes. As Corman points out, wide-format printing has an audience in banks, hospitals, hotels and other corporate spaces. If you can produce a high-quality piece that catches attention, you’re getting your own name out there, too, and might get an influx of new business.
You can print a wide variety of materials. Graphics, posters, decals, yard signs, tablecloths, banners, flags — you name it, it can be made with wide-format printing. “Almost every company is buying some sort of wide-format printing,” Corman says.
Annabel Steele is an editorial associate for PS Magazine.
Product Spotlight Distributors Wide-Format