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Production Print Providers Encouraged to Add Wide-Format Printing Services
During a webinar hosted by the printing-industry information and consulting group What They Think.com, Tim Greene and Barb Pellow of InfoTrends and David Pitts of Classic Graphics discussed why it makes sense for commercial providers of production printing to add wide-format graphics to their product mix.

Barb Pellow,  a group director at InfoTrends, noted that the “the customers for whom you produce print ads, brochures, catalogs and sell sheets also are spending heavily on signage.” Plus, these same customers who are seeking shorter turnaround times, shorter runs, and more personalization in their print-production jobs want the same things from their signage providers.

The next killer app

Tim Greene, InfoTrends’ director of inkjet technologies, talked about InfoTrends research that estimates that the U.S. retail value of wide-format digital printing will rise from $10.8 billion in 2008 to $11.9 billion in 2011. He said that while other forms of advertising are being disrupted by technologies that allow consumers to skip ads (such as Tivo and satellite radio), outdoor and P.O.P. advertising continue to grow.

Greene pointed out that in some cases P.O.P. isn’t part of a company’s advertising budget, but rather its merchandising budget. This makes P.O.P. less susceptible to some of the budget belt-tightening that occurs during economic downturns.

Greene presented other statistics that showed the size and diversity of the opportunity to sell wide-format graphics. For example, he cited U.S. government data that showed there are more than 2 million retail establishments, banks, restaurants, and bars. He said if you walk into any one of the sites, you can see hundreds of square feet of all types of different graphics.

For print providers who only used aqueous inkjet printers as proofing devices, Greene presented an overview of all types of inkjet printers, discussing their strengths, weaknesses, and comparative operating costs of aqueous, eco-solvent, robust solvent, and UV-curable ink technologies. 

David Pitts said his printing company Classic Graphics was pulled into the wide-format printing business after one of their major clients said they would prefer dealing with a single vendor instead of sending some work to a screen printing company and some work to Classic Graphics.  

Until last year, Classic Graphics had been producing all of its work on 40-in. sheetfed presses and an HP Indigo digital press. To expand the range of signage they could produce, they installed a UV-curable flatbed/roll hybrid printer in July of 2007 and an HP TurboJet 8500 in April of this year. Classic Graphics has since trained a sales rep to focus exclusively on large format, and she acts as a specialist on calls with sales reps to existing accounts.

During the webinar, Pitts showed some of the projects his company has done for various retailers, including a grocery-store display that incorporates an acrylic rack holding multiple brochures at its base.  He says the addition of wide-format graphics printing has helped drive new print jobs to his other equipment.

He admits that Classic Graphics had to make some adjustments to its operations. For one thing, large-format printing is priced differently than offset, said Pitts.  He noted that pricing varies widely, and that certain jobs can be quite profitable.

The prepress workflow is also different, Pitts said.  He advised webinar attendees to be prepared for challenges related to installation and plan to buy multiple devices to produce a range of products.  Pitts said printing companies who get into wide-format graphics should also be prepared to invest in finishing equipment, such as a digital die cutter, and allocate plenty of space for material handling.

The webinar was sponsored by HP and entitled: The Next Killer App: Are You Getting the Most Out of Inkjet? A PDF of the webinar slides can be downloaded from the What They Think website.

Earlier this year, InfoTrends released a publication to help teach newcomers to the business how to sell wide-format graphics. Entitled Selling Wide Format, the document provides a checklist for preparing or examining a wide-format sales strategy and discusses some of the best practices employed by wide-format service providers on a worldwide basis as well as in some local U.S. markets.

Volume 3  -  No. 7


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