InfoTrends is projecting the digitally printed rigid media business
to grow at a 22% compound annual growth rate in revenue terms from 2012 to
2017. The growth of the wide format UV-curable inkjet market, particularly the
flatbed segment, has driven the growth in the rigid media market.
Mark Kramer, the CEO of Laird Plastics, one of the
top rigid substrate suppliers in the country says, "We're certainly seeing
that shift from solvent inkjet production to UV-curable as a big trend, which
in turn has led to demand for a wider variety of materials to be printed
Kramer should know, he has been
the CEO of Laird, which has 54 locations in the U.S. and Canada, for 10 years.
Laird Plastics is big, but is very decentralized, which enables both high
service levels and a degree of differentiation from other suppliers.
locations are empowered to make all the commercial decisions" says Kramer,
"the nature of the signage and graphics business, the speed of it, demands
that kind of decentralized control. Around 70% of the orders we get have to be
fulfilled within 48 hours so a structure that slows down decisions just won't
Laird has seen some ups and downs too, Kramer suggests that the end
of 2008 to the beginning of 2010 was a "tough period", but since then
the company has been "growing relentlessly" which is a testament to
the Laird organization and philosophy but also its partners.
Laird sells print media from
Avery, 3A, Coroplast, Mactac, and Vycom - some of the strongest brands in the
digital print media, and particularly in the rigid media business.
Laird Plastics has a very
principled growth philosophy "we're not chasing after every trend and
we're not out there doing a whole lot of experimenting" Kramer says
"we try to do the very best job at representing the products, brands, and
vendors that we represent".
Accordingly, Laird has not
pursued any "white-box" or private-label media strategy which would
run counter to its core philosophy. One area that is growing and that Laird has
embraced wholeheartedly is sustainability.
Wide format signage and
graphics printers are acutely aware of the need to address sustainability
because some of the key products that wide format signage and graphics
producers use are very hard or difficult to recycle.
Addressing this issue is especially important with some customers
that place a lot of emphasis on the topic.
Laird works with its
manufacturers to try to identify products that offer more environmentally
preferable solutions and the company has established a recycling program for
products that have historically been problematic to recycling efforts such as
Styrene and PVC-based materials.
Kramer offers a strong 3-point
framework for the concept of sustainability as it relates to print media: Laird
Plastics has become one of the biggest names in signage and graphics print
media distribution and there is a lot to admire about Laird's model.
What can dealers learn from
what Laird does? One piece of advice from Kramer "the conditions of the
market, the speed of business, the overcapacity of suppliers, the lower
acceptance of errors by our customers - these aren't trends that will diminish,
so we think the future profitability of channel players can be enhanced by the
notion of collaboration (versus competition). We're not going to get more
profitable by beating each other up." DC