The Post-Pandemic Future of Wide-Format
Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused impacts throughout the world no one could have ever anticipated. This virus affected the global economy, threatened the health and safety of every citizen in every country, and disrupted supply chains worldwide. But what does that mean for the future of wide-format printing?
While many companies have crisis playbooks and business continuity plans that cover natural disasters, hazardous materials incidents, cybersecurity breaches, and even terrorism, it’s probably safe to assume no one had a playbook for a global pandemic.
But it’s been more than three months since we’ve all been tossed feet-first into the stormy seas of the pandemic. Print service providers (PSPs) have been forced to sink or swim (aka manufacture something or close up shop entirely) and many have pivoted to produce products they never have before. We’ve seen shops fabricating everything from personal protective equipment (PPE) — face masks, gowns, and face shields — to social distancing signage — posters and floor graphics — as well as signage promoting current services (i.e. “We’re Open for Take-Out,” “Curbside Pickup,” and more). Shops have learned to do things they’ve never done before. For this reason, there is often no playbook to teach nor experts to follow, so owners have needed to empower their employees to try new things and learn along the way.
In many cases, digital printing and cutting technologies have shown their true benefits, allowing shops to turn on a dime to create these new products quickly, providing just-in-time manufacturing capabilities to small and essential businesses desperate to get the word out about the health and safety guidelines all customers must follow.
While the crisis we’re facing right now is overwhelming, there have been some glimmers of optimism.
According to a McKinsey & Company survey of U.S. financial decision-makers’ sentiments during the COVID-19 pandemic, while most view the current economy as weak, those that expect worsening in the next three months are decreasing.
Additionally, according to a report in DailyDOOH, with all U.S. states at some stage of reopening, the Lightbox OOH Video Network has seen traffic return to malls. In the third week of monitoring, data provided by Intermx shows traffic in reopened malls at 66% of pre-shutdown numbers, a significant increase for the week ending May 24.
The report details that some traffic even exceeds pre-COVID-19 baselines and same week, year ago figures. Markets like Myrtle Beach, Fla., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Dayton, Ohio, are seeing audience counts higher than May 2019, perhaps reflecting Americans’ eagerness to engage in activities that resemble normalcy.
There’s still a lot of uncertainty out there — especially because this situation is so fluid. There are still many questions. What does the economy look like through 2020 and beyond? Will the industry rebound quickly or slowly? Are there areas and businesses that will rebound quicker than others? What happens if the virus rebounds in the autumn? Where do we go from here? What does the next normal look like?
We reached out to industry experts — business owners, OEM partners, and industry analysts — to answer some of those questions. You can find their answers in the PDF here.
One thing is certain, as businesses step into the post-pandemic future, they need to find a balance between what worked before and what needs to happen to succeed in the next normal.
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.