Tue, Sep

Yes, the Christmas stuff is appearing in the shops, which has me wondering how the festive season is looking for those of you involved in the retail sector. Is there a splurge of activity or are things relatively quiet from a print perspective compared to ‘normal’ years?

It’s good to see that those of you wanting to travel to Amsterdam for Fespa Global Print Expo 2021 next month will be able to do so much more easily thanks to travel restriction changes in the Netherlands - I know the quarantine situation was preventing many of you from making plans to attend. Will the scrapping of the quarantine requirement for UK visitors change your mind about going?

Over the last couple of months we’ve seen a number of polls and reports on how digital tools and alerts are adversely impacting staff with hybrid working patterns. Do you still have many people homeworking for part of their time, or have you now pretty much brought back everyone on-site? Where do you feel they are most productive - and do digital comms/tools have anything to do with it, for better or worse?

Off the back of the Bank of England boss Andrew Bailey ditching a return to the office order, debate surrounding WFH rages on. 89% of European companies plan on having a hybrid workforce post-pandemic, with 92% keen to explore more progressive workplaces policies including ‘core working’ hours and four-day work weeks. This is according to new research by Owl Labs, which recently polled 2,000 EMEA business leaders. Wondering what your take is on hybrid working?

Now that exhibitions and trade shows are beginning to re-emerge I’m wondering if many large-format PSPs will take stands to show-off their newly diversified product ranges to new potential customers. Printers have largely eschewed this type of self-publicity in the past. Has that changed - or do you still reckon there are better, more efficient ways of reaching new markets?

I’ve just seen a fab coffee dispensing billboard installation. As a queue formed by the interactive poster outside the new Jägermeister Coffee Haus in London, I did wonder how ‘we’ - the large-format print sector - could make more of a noise about the creative potential of print. Can we make more ‘wow’ moments and better use them to our advantage?

I received a press release this morning alerting me to the fact that free training is being offered to would-be lorry drivers because we have a shortage of 90,000 truckers in the UK. I’ve got to ask if that’s making life difficult for you - the driver shortage that is, not the offer of free training! - and what you’re doing to ensure deliveries are getting through on time?

Here you go - click through to https://www.imagereportsmag.co.uk/widthwise and you’ll be able to download our newly published Widthwise Report 2021. This is the 14th consecutive year that we’ve brought you this data-based report on the state of the UK/Ireland large-format sector, and this time around we gathered information from 195 PSPs here in the domestic market. Have a read - you may be surprised by some of the findings …

Data Image has taken on Katie Gibson in the new role of sustainable researcher as part of the Department for Work and Pensions' Kickstart scheme. Who have you taken on as part of this programme, and in what role/s? It’s more than sheer nosiness honest - it’ll help me build up a picture of where sector is looking for new blood.

The worst of times has been the best of times for some. That may not be what you want to hear if Covid has just about sunk your business but, according to the 195 large-format orientated UK/Ireland-based print businesses that answered our 14th Widthwise poll at the start of this year, the sector has not fared too badly overall - some have even benefitted - and levels of optimism are high despite worry over the rising cost of supplies, uncertainty about UK economic bounce-back etc. All in all, many large-format PSPs have seen the Covid-19 pandemic, and all the upheaval that has created, as an opportunity for a great reset. But don’t take my word for it - the survey information speaks for itself and can be found in the newly published Widthwise Report 2021. A précis of the key findings is included in this issue, but you can download the whole report - for free - at https://imagereportsmag.co.uk/widthwise

Data from the survey shows that 30.8% of PSPs intending to invest in the next year or two are doing so with the aim of improving efficiencies. Many are looking at workflow as you’d expect, but when it comes to MIS - well, let’s just say its deployment in this sector looks set to remain low. We know the reasons why it is eschewed by so many, but is it time to re-evaluate given what MIS suppliers have to say about developments? The What To Watch feature provides a management report.

This issue also looks into another key issue - carbon emissions, and what this sector can do to reduce them. Plus, there are updates, tips and advice on other areas of concern, such as regulations on dealing with staff suffering from Long Covid, how to handle requests for flexible working etc.

Here’s hoping all our efforts go some way to helping you during this great reset.

News that Epson is bringing out its first printheads with a built-in heater has me wondering how that’s going to impact UV printer developments - and those of you likely to run work through the kit based upon them. Thoughts on a postcard - well, email - please.

I recently heard about a new 100% recyclable, certified plastic-free, metalised paperboard for digital printing. EcoFoil Digital - stocked by Denmaur - is currently only available in small format, but the company says it’s looking into the feasibility of making it available for wide-format. Would it excite you as much as it did me? We’ve seen the introduction of some really impressive ‘eco substrates’ over the past couple of years – is there anything specific that you are still crying out for?

The BPIF and Fespa are introducing new eco schemes for large-format PSPs - and the SGP begins its pilot scheme over here soon. With environmental responsibility having climbed to the top of the agenda I’m just wondering if there’s any excuse - perhaps I should say ‘reason’ - for print companies not being able to prove that they are doing their bit? Our Widthwise Report 2021 is published alongside the August issue of Image Reports in the next few days - the ‘environment’ section data tells an interesting story. Let me know what you think.

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