Editor's Note: Signs of Optimism Ahead
It’s mid-January and as I write this, it’s hard to believe that we’re fast approaching the two-year mark of the pandemic. The saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same” certainly seems to be ringing true. I know for the majority of us, we had thought — and hoped — that all of this would be behind us by now.
So, it’s no surprise that our latest annual ranking of the largest wide-format print providers in the U.S. and Canada — as ranked by annual wide-format sales — has dropped to the 2021 Wide-Format Impressions 100 (down from 125 in 2020). With companies reporting their calendar 2020 annual sales, their most recent fiscal year, the numbers certainly reflect the challenges the industry — and the world — have been facing.
It’s true printing businesses were classified as “essential” during the pandemic, but that designation only helped to a certain degree. Many of the larger vertical markets served by wide-format print providers — trade shows, events, retail — were shut down completely.
But, there are signs of optimism. For those companies that were able to provide PPE and wayfinding signage, there was an opportunity to “do something” to aid neighbors and first responders. Some businesses on the list have flourished during these uncertain times, growing new revenue streams.
The pandemic also quickened the pace of change within the wide-format sign and graphics industry. Consider these trends:
Custom Expression: Even back at the beginning of 2020, the New York Times recognized that customization and personalization for products was a growing trend. From startups to big brands, businesses are offering personalized product options to extend product lines and increase sales.
Are you taking advantage of this trend toward customization? We’ve seen it already in vehicle graphics and wallpaper for interior décor, but how about sports gear, like skis, snowboards, surfboards, and skateboards? Have you branched out into upholstery; soft goods, like pillows and blankets; ceramic tiles; or garage doors? We’re getting to a place where the saying “if it fits, it prints” might be true.
Booming Online Sales: While consumers shopped online before the pandemic, they were pushed to rely on digital retailers even more during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many physical stores were closed, and people opted to stay indoors as much as possible to slow the spread of the coronavirus. A study by Digital Commerce 360, reported on Inc. found that the top 500 companies generated $849.5 billion in online sales in 2020, a 45.3% increase year-over-year and the biggest jump since Digital Commerce 360 began tracking the statistic in 2006.
Do you have an online storefront? Do you offer online sales? As wide-format printing — like posters, banners, yard signs, and the like — grew in popularity during the pandemic, having an online storefront offered mainstream consumers the option to buy directly from printers. Enabling customers to reorder prints and update graphics with online templates could also be beneficial for print buyers and marketers, providing recurring, “easy” sales.
I am optimistic about the industry and while there are still many challenges facing businesses in 2022, I do think — and the industry experts agree — there are good things ahead of us. I’m also hopeful our Wide-Format Impressions 100 can grow this year and even surpass 125. Do I hear 150 or 200?
Denise Gustavson is the Editorial Director and Special Projects Editor for the Printing & Packaging Group, which includes Printing Impressions, packagePRINTING, In-plant Graphics and Wide-Format Impressions magazines, among other brands. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Wide-Format Impressions.