When the pandemic first ensued, printers were left scratching their heads wondering how to keep business flowing. Many seized the opportunity to bounce back and stepped into the wide-format space, producing pandemic-related signage, floor graphics and face shields. Fast-forward to 2022 and these wide-format heroes find themselves facing a new set of issues – all threatening its continued growth.
While U.S. import demand for printing products/supplies has increased dramatically, many exporting countries are neither at full production, nor logistical capacity. The result? A supply impasse, increased costs and backlogging.
Adding to the pressure are labor shortages, compounded by “the great resignation,” an aging workforce and a lack of skilled labor amongst the Gen Z and millennials entering the workforce.
Three factors drive growth in large-format and signage.
New Businesses. New Brand.
After a nearly two-year absence, trade shows are back – and they’re feeding a voracious, competitive appetite for business.
A hiatus from the show floor, new competitors and a shift in buyer and business behavior and values, has led companies to re-think ways to showcase their brand – with booth signage, graphics and new interactive print solutions, that can generate engagement, traffic and business. With hundreds of trade shows scheduled in the U.S. for 2022, wide-format shops have the opportunity to keep the job pipeline flowing.
New Technology. New Solutions.
Constantly improving technologies and trends impacting the growth in wide-format include artificial intelligence, 3D modelling, virtual reality, packaging and prototyping, interior décor, short-run wall coverings and sustainable solutions – to name a few.
Curation processes and technology are a prime example of just how far equipment and technology has progressed over the last five years, enabling printers to offer more competitive solutions and better customer experiences. An increasing demand for cost-effective and textured-coating printing inks, has increased the popularity of UV-curated inks – and a shift to UV-gel, which produces a high-quality product, reduces curation time, saves costs and has a significantly smaller odor footprint.
However, a discussion about improved technology in the print industry is incomplete without mentioning the impact of web-to-print software. With more integrations, better user experience, easier implementation, increased options and better customizations, e-commerce helped many printers reach new customers and geographies 24 x 7 x 365 – while simultaneously gaining access to real-time, business-defining data. It’s a market that’s expected to grow at a CAGR of 7% between 2022 and 2027, according to Expert Market Research.
New Trends. New Expectations.
The thing about popular culture is it’s not static – it’s constantly shifting and adapting to the changing times. And boy, have times changed. Just look at recent pop-culture design and environmental trends.
Digital platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Pinterest influence the look of many new “micro” brands, influencing young entrepreneurs and startups to turn to bright, attractive images with muted presets — aka: the “Instagram aesthetic.”
Embracing this minimalist, clean design trend over the past few years are brands like Burger King, Mastercard, Warner Bros., Nissan, VW, Volvo, GM, UPS and Pepsi.
Another trend in pop culture is increased ecological awareness. While this has impacted nearly every industry, the print and paper sector have been particularly hard-hit, again falling victim to greenwashing statements.
The Shifting Landscape of Large-Format Printing
In early 2021 I wrote about how critical print is to the brand experience, and how it takes more than 10 interactions before brand recall even begins to set in. Big, beautiful print increases the chances of being noticed and provides a powerful way to reinforce that brand recall, whether it’s in-store, in-office or on the trade show floor.
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