Benefits of co-location welcomed

Sign & Digital UK receives positive response after revamp

Signage and wide-format show Sign & Digital UK (SDUK) returned to the NEC in Birmingham earlier this week – the first since Datateam Business Media acquired the show and also co-located it with Printwear & Promotion Live! (P&P) for the first time.

Over 180 suppliers exhibited across the two events in Hall 1 and 2 of the venue, including more than 60 at SDUK, which boasted a raft of product launches and a full schedule of presentations and panel discussions at the ISA-UK Explains Lounge, hosted by the International Sign Association UK.

Another popular show feature was The Sign Studio, which featured several daily live demonstrations and practical workshops hosted by experienced signmaker Paul Hughes.

Printweek visited the three-day show on its final day yesterday (27 February), and SDUK exhibitors reported largely positive experiences, with most agreeing that interest was bolstered by the co-location of P&P, which brought customers from new markets onto their stands.

P&P was packed, even late on the final day, and buzzing with companies looking more into garment and product decoration, with a major focus at this event on the rising direct-to-film (DTF) technology.

The success of the co-located shows came despite the fact that Fespa’s Global Print Expo is taking place three weeks from now in Amsterdam, while Drupa will open its doors in late May – a show that many observers felt was where a lot of exhibitors’ budgets for shows was primarily going this year – restricting the amount they can spend on other events.

In terms of product launches, Epson debuted its SC-V1000 A4 flatbed UV printer, which caters to small businesses in the promotional goods sector.

Phil McMullin, head of sales, commercial and industrial at Epson UK, told Printweek: “This is our first venture into micro production – we should be shipping in July – and it’s hitting the spot for people at the show, we’re having a lot of people coming over from Printwear & Promotion.

“It’s really early days yet, but it’s CMYK with a white and a varnish on board and so it’s offering some great embellishment opportunities. The white ink is critical because a lot of medias being printed onto are not white medias, they’re coloured.

“Personalisation is obviously a big growth area, and this allows us to offer good entry-level product, very good value, for people looking to personalise 3D objects, and small signage, and potentially print onto film for heat application to round objects like mugs and water bottles.”

Hybrid Services, the exclusive UK and Ireland distributor for Mimaki Europe, introduced three new printers at the event, while Roland DG’s showing included the debut of the VersaObject EU-1000MF and the DGConnect software app.

First-time exhibitor Sign Trade Supplies, meanwhile, introduced a new range of sign products, including new aluminium finishing options with special effect coatings.

Garrick Dartnell, head of marketing at Sign Trade Supplies, praised the “good quality leads” the company had picked up at the show.

He told Printweek: “There’s nothing else at the show like our new wood effect profiles and this has been really well received with lots of interest.

“We’ve always wanted to come to this show, and with our new products launched this year, we had a point of difference and thought it would be good to highlight some things that aren’t already on show.”

PrintMax marketing manager Vicky Jarman also spoke to Printweek at the show: “On the first day we sold the first UK release of the new Mimaki UCJV330, so that was nice to get a UK first at the show. It’s been a really good sales show for us, but also as ever the perfect opportunity to catch up with customers.

“We’ve met a lot of people that we genuinely would have never met – who didn’t know us or our equipment, and we’ve managed to find them solutions that they weren’t aware of so [the co-location] has definitely been a good thing.”

Tradeprint sales and customer success director and sustainability lead Anthony Rowell was at the show in support of the IPIA and as a member of ISA-UK, and he participated in a trio of the sessions in the Explains Lounge yesterday, discussing Tradeprint’s strategic expansion as well as contributing to panels on recruitment and sustainability.

He told Printweek: “It looks like the Printwear show has a real buzz, and it’s a new category for us – t-shirts, tote bags, and drinkware.

“There’s definitely [a focus on sustainability here at SDUK] – if you go to the Soyang stand, they’ve got a beautiful range of sustainable materials. And the equipment manufacturers are all talking about water-based solutions, moving away from challenging solvents.”

Brendan Perring, general manager of the IPIA, told Printweek: “Datateam have a very good understanding of how print exhibitions need to work, because Printwear & Promotion is a very successful show, it’s filled a whole hall of the NEC and it’s been busy every day, so they’ve done a good job.

“This is a really good rebuild year now for Sign & Digital UK, which is great because the show is over 35 years old and it’s been an absolutely central part of the calendar and an economic stimulus for the industry for many years. So it’s great that with the new ownership they are investing in it, and it has benefited from the co-location with Printwear & Promotion because a lot of the visitors to both shows are relevant.

“All the reports from our members are that they are happy, they want to be here next year, and they’re having good conversations with a much more diverse range of visitors than in previous years, and I think that’s because of the co-location with Printwear & Promotion.”

The show format change saw SDUK open on a Sunday for the first time, offering those who were unable to attend on a traditional working day the opportunity to visit. Many exhibitors reported that this was a successful exercise.

Event director Tony Gardner told Printweek: “P&P are used to Sunday, and it was like a party in Hall 1. SDUK really benefitted from the co-location and with the additional visitors coming across from P&P, had over 2,000 visits on the Sunday, so the show was busy all day.

“Exhibitors reported that visitors were very keen to explore the technology, and many were ready to buy. We announced a large number of deals made on stands on Sunday – which is great news for everyone.”

He added: “We’ve actually been blown away by the positivity from many exhibitors with regard to the two shows working together. Companies in SDUK, in particular, say they have had lots of people come across from P&P inspired by what they have seen and ready to talk about the equipment they need to get into these new markets.

“Similarly, visitors have raved about having the two shows together. It makes it a bigger show and a great use of time. I can quote one visitor who said they loved the new format and begged us to do the same again next year.”

Key trends around SDUK this year included sustainability and materials recycling, as well as new applications, personalisation, and the rise of direct-to-object printing – these three areas often going hand in hand with each other.

Gardner hailed the show’s opportunities for signmakers to move into the personalised print and workwear markets.

“This has been a rare opportunity for the sign industry to have some meaningful conversations with all the suppliers in this sector. Not just the printers, but the heat presses, ovens, apparel suppliers, and more,” he said.

“There was also some buzz around digital screen signage, which is a market that continues to develop and is becoming ever more prevalent and important.”

Gardner said Datateam had been hopeful of a combined attendance of around 8,000 visitors, and with just under 6,000 across the first two days, he said it had looked “very likely” that this figure would be achieved.

He added: “The 2025 stand reservation deadline is a few weeks away, however, over half of the Sign & Digital exhibitors have already reserved for next year.

“The shows will co-locate again next year and will move into Halls 19 and 20, which will make the movement of visitors between the two virtually seamless.”