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AUGUST 2013



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Wide Format Finishing - Moneymaker or Necessary Evil
by Tim Greene, InfoTrends

What we at InfoTrends believe is that finishing, as a way to increase dealer-revenues, is enormous. Why? Because the end-user-customer is demanding finishing services from your PSP/printing customers.

So, let's begin….. What does finishing mean as it relates to wide format printing? It can mean mounting, cutting, sewing, grommetting and laminating, and any combination of those. In fact, in many cases, a wide format print job isn't really useful until it is finished, because how can the banner be displayed without the grommets and how can the poster be put on that store wall until it has been mounted? So in many ways wide format print finishing is a necessary evil.

"Necessary" because of the function of the finishing applied, "evil" because it adds steps to the production process and requires equipment and labor. The good thing from the perspective of the print service provider is that all of these additional services are services for which they are able to charge. Similarly, for dealers, the need to apply the finishing touches to wide format graphics is an ongoing revenue source that is somewhat undervalued.

Recently InfoTrends got to do a project for a manufacturer of finishing materials where we found there is a very important dichotomy in the opinions of dealers and print service providers as it relates to print finishing. What we found was that the majority of PSPs are seeing an increase in the percentage of their wide format production that received professional finishing, but that dealers believe the percentage of jobs that receive professional finishing was on the decline. In fact, the ultimate end users -the sign printer's customers - surveyed expected that given the print technologies they use and expect to use, they believed that the percentage of jobs laminated would increase over the next couple of years.

We believe this is because many wide format prints that come off of UV-curable inkjet printers, not only need the protection of lamination, but the images themselves are improved by lamination or coating the graphics. In fact, when we asked hundreds of end-users why they laminate wide format prints, the top reason was customer request, but there are actually a number of reasons they do it, protection from weather and graffiti, protection from damage during shipping, but also the fact that lamination improves the appearance of the graphics, gives them a more professional look, adds stiffness (so the print will stand up in a light box) improvement, stiffness, etc.

That's just lamination, there is another potential upside and it is also something that a lot of dealers should be talking about with their printing-customers and that is opportunity for higher margin products. Customers are willing to pay for products that have applied labor, such as contour cutting. So, graphics that are cut into shapes, dimensional graphics, posters printed on adhesive material that can be repositioned, these are high-value applications that often sell for much more on a cost per piece basis than conventional square and rectangular prints. The equipment that makes these kinds of applications, cutters and cutting tables for example, also have a "consumable" in the blades, and parts. These also represent an ongoing revenue stream opportunity for the dealer.

Author Tim Greene, Director of Wide Format Printing Consulting Services, InfoTrends, will field your questions, comments or arguments by email: tim_greene@infotrends.com

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