Sign & Digital UK’s space in the exhibition calendar is assured as the three-day large format exhibition once again attracted a goodly flow of visitors through the truncated Hall 3 of the NEC.
Organiser Faversham House does not release attendance figures until these have been officially verified, but anecdotally traffic on the first two days was up on last year, quelling any concerns about the ongoing viability of the event.
The show manages to absorb new influences to maintain its relevance both to visitors and to exhibitors. And it remains a platform for new products, the organiser claiming that there were around 50 UK firsts on show. As the industry has shifted, so has the show. This year there was a distinct textiles flavour, not just in fabric displays, but fabrics for home furnishing, direct to garment and upholstery.
CMYUK had engaged the services of a textile designer and a furniture restorer to work on one corner of the stand, just on of the live action displays taking place. Vehicle wrapping, whether of a car or jet ski, retains its appeal. Antalis brought back its demonstration of how swiftly wallpapers can be removed and applied; Art Systems offered the Retail Experience.
But outside this there was relatively little emphasis on the application. Instead exhibitors crammed machine after machine on to their allocated space, making it sometimes tricky to navigate to the centre of a stand. But the visitors like to see and touch the machines and few exhibitors would dare not do anything other than load their stands.
Materials suppliers are not as restricted and the Antalis Alpine lodge and Premier Paper’s film studio stands used the substrates each can provide to good effect. This was a first outing at the show for Premier Papers which has set up a dedicated Display Graphics business to deliver wide display materials to the sector.
Its stand involved posters, wall paper, backlit graphics, fabrics and more centred around a going to the movies theme. Just about the only thing that was outside Premier’s compass was the gaping shark’s maw serving as the backdrop for visitors to snatch selfies with the likes of Marilyn Monroe or Jack Sparrow. “The whole stand is made from our products,” says marketing director Dave Jones. It included rigid materials, T-shirts, films and wall coverings to produce posters, the backlot, film stage and more, including movie memorabilia and posters for a spread of intriguingly named films, each highlighting a product family – Walk the Skyline being typical.
“We walked around last year and saw the range of materials used on the stands and how they were used. We decided we needed to do something different, something to stand out when we launched the new divisions. So everything here has a tenuous film industry link showing how the materials we have can be used to used to produce everything related to the films.”
It worked. There was a steady flow of visitors to the stand, drawn perhaps by the life sized shark suspended above the stand. “It’s about demonstrating the products and what they can do,” Jones adds.
Premier was not the only first timer to the show. Ricoh is starting to make a splash with large format inkjet, having first introduced the Pro L4100 latex machine a few years ago. The latest iteration of this, the L5100, was on show in Birmingham along with the TF6250 flatbed machine and the DTG inkjet presses. The latter will be a fast moving low cost product sold via dealers, while the flatbed is a direct sell, possibly to customers that have an existing relationship with Ricoh through cut sheet or MFP products.
“I think we have one of the best stands here,” says Simon Isaacs, national sales manager, sitting beneath a vast print of a stylised lion in bright colours and white, which like all else on the stand was printed on the Ricoh technology. “The product mix we are showing is pretty broad.
People have read about the technology we have and have come to see it. We want to be part of the mix when people are thinking about new technology. And part of the value proposition we have is to do with white.
“We had to find something different, to help printers find a niche – printing on radiators for example, that others can’t offer.”
Existing customers are a key opportunity, so too those delivering print to corporate customers that use Ricoh to manage a fleet of printers and want to stay within the Ricoh world when outsourcing display print requirement. While the larger machines attracted a steady flow of traffic, the fast moving machines were the DTG printers, able to print T-shirts in minutes and enabling an out of the box revenue stream and rapid payback – at least for the early adopters.
“This is the biggest opportunity for a printer,” says inkjet sales manager Stewart Cobby. The market can run from team apparel through to garments for stag or hen weekends, personalised clothing and high end exclusive designs, he explains.
By Gareth Ward
There were plenty of examples of textile printing along with wallpapers and decorative applications at Sign & Digital last week. These are no longer areas of minority interest but are rapidly becoming mainstream, at least for enterprising printers.