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Just What's Happening to the US Wide-Format-Graphics Market?

(July 2005) posted on Fri Jul 29, 2005

Find out what market changes have led the decline of wide-format inkjet printing equipment purchases and what graphics producers can do to remain competitive.

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By Michael Flippin

When I think about today's competitive business climate and the changes and challenges facing the graphics industry, I am reminded of an African parable I learned during a visit to Kenya years ago: Every morning, a gazelle wakes up knowing it must run faster than the fastest lion. Every morning a lion awakens knowing it must outrun the slowest gazelle. It doesn't matter if you are a lion or a gazelle—when the sun comes up you'd better be running.

I bet that many graphics producers in our industry feel they are running frantically just to keep pace with the changes in technology, new printer models and manufacturers, and new media types, applications, and inks, as well as the unique and evolving business environment in which we operate. In this dynamic global marketplace, that's an awful lot of information to chase.

In this installment, I will focus on the rapidly transforming wide-format (24- to 99-in.) digital graphics market in the US. Just what exactly is going on here? As Yogi Berra once said, "You can learn a lot just by watching." Industry consultants and analysts like myself have carefully watched the wide-format digital graphics market develop for more than a decade, and if one thing is clear, it's that the market is more complicated and competitive than ever before. In making decisions, anyone involved in graphics production must carefully weigh market information and commentary as they apply to different market segments. Today, few general observations can be accurately applied to this increasingly fragmented market.

Who's buying, and who's still not buying?

Web Consulting recently conducted a US research project aimed at not only users of wide-format inkjet printers, but also shops that have not yet purchased wide-format inkjets. While both sets of results were interesting, the conclusions that can be drawn from them are perhaps not what many suppliers—especially printer manufacturers—want to hear.


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