Myriad factors are creating a volatile environment transforming the types of signage and graphics found in retail stores.
Jim Blee, Graphic Tech: I totally agree. We used to differentiate ourselves in our printing capabilities, but now my (digital) printers do what Dave’s do, or what Dan’s do. The print quality isn’t really the main factor in the sale of the graphics. It’s more of what I call the “origami component” of a bigger project that involves print. The poster or window graphic isn’t enough to get that attention and level of exposure that the retailer is looking for. There is and probably always will be a shopping component centered around the mall, but how you differentiate yourself from one retailer to the next is where the innovation happens. We’re putting a lot of extra people and support equipment into taking something that is printed flat or on a roll and converting it into something interesting, and it’s expensive. It’s all about getting the attention of the customers and making it more enticing for them to shop, and the complexity of the graphics is becoming more and more demanding as a result.
SP: This drive toward complexity—is it something that helps you stand out from the pack or is it simply expected now?
Pratt: Retailers have been forced to be a lot savvier with their print and media budgets. Demographics and consumer information are much more prevalent, and retailers are trying to customize and localize to get more out of their budgets and better appeal to the consumer. The result is an exponentially higher degree of difficulty on these programs, and it’s part of the cost of doing business.
Blee: I absolutely agree. I wish we could charge for it. It’s almost a shame to think that the things we have to do today are an expectation and not an opportunity to “amaze” our clients.
SP: With the client’s focus on your upstream and downstream capabilities, is the printing process in the middle increasingly seen as a commodity?
Pratt: It’s been commoditized for awhile. Companies that are just figuring that out are five years too late and may be no longer in business.
Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to the magazine.