Another option Sulzmann puts forth is to find a local firm that has the capability to print large-format graphics and partner with them. Although this suggestion may not appeal to everyone, there are advantages to linking up with companies that already have expertise in this area, especially when it comes to things like advising customers on the right substrate to use.
“The printer will give their advice on what they feel is the best solution for the application if it’s not already specified and will also be able to show the client the various options available, however, this will be limited by their material/industry knowledge,” explains Sulzmann.
Being armed with knowledge about what substrate will work best for a particular job is crucial to the success of a wall graphics business, because the reasons clients choose particular materials cover many factors including “durability, stability (expansion and contraction properties), aesthetics, green credentials and not least price,” says Sulzmann.
A further factor that’s becoming increasingly important for customers is ease of installation. Many wall covering substrates require the use of specially trained installers, which can be quite costly, according to Nigel Moxley sales manager of Huddersfield-based Leach Colour.
“For every pound you spent on a graphic five years ago, you spent another pound sticking it up on the wall,” says Moxley. “You had to lay on night security, lighting and heating for people to stick graphics on a wall, which is a cost that customers didn’t want. Today, the graphic and substrate represent only 50% of the decision-making process – key is low cost of install and interchangeability.”
Moxley adds that the growing desire from clients to install wall coverings themselves is the biggest change he’s seen.
“They want to be able to do it quickly, they want it to be easy and, when it’s done, they want it to look like it’s been done professionally. That’s what we strive to do.”
Leach has devised a number of products that meet this need (see box), which provides them with an all-important point of difference and edge over their rivals at a time when the market is showing early signs of maturing. But that’s not to say that there isn’t still scope for growth. Sulzmann believes that the sector is set to continue to buck the downward trend affecting the wider print industry and enjoy further strong take-up in the future.
“While the printing industry is shrinking overall, the wide-format sector is still growing and technology advancements enable greater flexibility in terms of printing substrates,”
It is these substrates that are enabling such a high degree of innovation – and high-margin work – in wall graphics. Knowledge of these substrates is key to success for any printer looking capitalise, as is having installation teams and the right press arsenal at your disposal, but with rewards high, wall graphics may well be the high-value service wide-format printers have been seeking.
CASE STUDY- LEACH COLOUR
Innovative large-format printer Leach has “innovation in its blood”. Founded in the 1890s, the company’s longevity is largely attributable to its ability to predict the direction that the market is heading and then develop products to meet these future needs. In recent years, some of the company’s most successful products have tapped into the self-install trend that sales manager Nigel Moxley says has been one of the biggest shifts affecting the wall graphics industry. Although it offers some clever easy-to-install tension fabric systems, Leach has made the biggest splash with its Stik magnetic wallpaper, which is used by major retail groups including Arcadia and Gap. “They absolutely love it because we’ve completely cut out installation,” explains Moxley. “People have been doing magnetic graphics for years, but the magnets were expensive to buy and it was environmentally unfriendly because you had to dispose of them afterwards,” explains Moxley. “So the clever thing that we did was to permanently fix the magnet on the wall and then we ship out graphics with iron filings on the back. These can then simply be rolled onto the wall by in-store staff in seconds.”