Fri, Dec

My old school motto was ‘Per Unitatem Virtus’ - Strength Through Unity. With Carol Swift having now officially taken over at the helm of Fespa UK Association I have to ask – what do you want from the organisation? The UK/Ireland wide-format digital print sector gets somewhat overlooked when it comes to print industry’ reports etc. so is the answer for more PSPs – and suppliers etc – to come together and present a stronger front?

“It’s not about print capability but supply chain management that is stymying printed blind market development.” That’s what the commercial manager of The Blind Shop told me when I was talking to him at 100% Design. We all know that finding new customers - especially in new vertical markets - is one of the toughest jobs, but in this instance he’d actually gone to a PSP that purported to be a ‘specialist’ blinds printer, only to be left dangling over questions about working with them on a bespoke job. Perhaps the PSP in question didn’t think it worth bothering about. But the result is that this man can’t be bothered now to look into more bespoke and personalised print jobs. It makes me wonder if we’re a tad too complacent…..

100% Design opened yesterday and runs until Saturday at Olympia in London. Exhibiting from the print space is Colourgen, which is putting 3D wallpaper possibilities from the Dimense printer in front of visitors. But that's it from our industry. Shame. The shows attracts loads of creatives and innovative interiors and surfaces/materials companies - as exhibitors and visitors - people you could do well to rub shoulders with and products that might just pique your interest. Just a thought in case your diary is looking a bit lightweight!

…to win big contracts. But you no doubt you have to be bold. In the next issue of Image Reports I talk to a PSP that has put in place a ‘communications team’ to deal with specific top tier targets in two vertical markets where it sees real growth opportunity. It’s a brave move - it’s not a cheap option - but the expectation is for long-term pay-off. Are you playing a long game too?

Heck, Iain Robertson is not pulling any punches. Is print really in crisis in Scotland? I certainly know of PSPs that are feeling some of the effects he has outlined in the statement issued today. What’s your take? I’d like to hear.

Where do we stand now on ecommerce as a sector? Has it become common practice among large-format PSPs to provide an online ordering and pre-payment system? Obviously not all jobs/clients lend themselves to this, but is it something you find you now have to have in place for ‘bread-and-butter’ work due to customer expectation – and perhaps its usefulness in terms of cashflow?

As media suppliers focus more on getting their materials in front of end specifiers, are you finding your customers come to you with better knowledge of what they want and of what substrates are required to achieve their desired effects?

Ok, how many of you use alternative inks to those supplied/recommended by your printer manufacturer/supplier? Do you feel strongly one way or another about their use and their impact upon your own operations. Please drop me a line or give me a ring if you’re happy to talk. Cheers.

Do you ask environmental questions of your kit suppliers? When I last asked manufacturers what questions they got asked by PSPs about the ‘green’ credentials of their machines I was largely told that nobody really cares about that sort of thing – that it’s just about capability and end price. Is that still so or is the greening of the whole supply chain, and concern from your own customers, prompting you to ask more questions – not just in terms of machine efficiency etc., but on stuff like where parts are sourced, manufacturing energy consumption, delivery distance…? We should be, shouldn’t we?

Where do you meet ‘creatives’? I mean those you wouldn’t ordinarily come across in your day-to-day activities but who might well bring you work over the long-term if they only knew what whacky and wonderful things large-format digital print could deliver. And when you do meet them, how do you describe what your business does? Nice to see that Oasis Graphics and SMP Group are listed under ‘experiential’ at the upcoming Retail Design Expo for instance – not just POS/POP. I’m happy to help push the envelope and make the right noises in the right places, so help me help you by telling me where you think the best networking is to be had!

We all know that inkjet techniques open up whole new worlds of possibility, but how many of you are entering the more novel new markets? I ask because a new report from Smithers Pira - ‘The Future of Inkjet Printing to 2023’ - flags up the potential growth path for inkjet print. But as we know from over a decade of Widthwise research with UK/Ireland-based large-format PSPs, it’s not just about the technological capability when it comes to entering new markets, it’s about you feeling it’s worth your while making the strategic adjustments to your business (https://www.imagereportsmag.co.uk/widthwise2018). Is the fact that where you are yet to enter, others now are doing so affecting your thinking as the more ‘traditional’ inkjet markets mature? A question for Widthwise 2019 perhaps!

I often go on about what we can learn from the SGIA - well, perhaps it has learned something from Fespa with the instigation of its first wrap challenge as part of this year’s SGIA Expo. If you wanted to export key large-format knowledge and know-how, what would it be?

You want to expand or diversify - so get crowdfunding. That’s what Your Print Partner (YPP) is doing to get its latest venture - CustomGifts.co.uk - up and running. Its young gun chief, Stuart Maclaren - who’s still not 30! - isn’t one to sit around while markets move on, and he’s confident this funding route will let him get in on the action sooner rather than later. What are your thoughts on crowdfunding as a business development tool?

How do you feel the findings from the latest BPIF Printing Outlook survey reflect what’s happening within your business – or the wide-format inkjet print sector as a whole? The Widthwise Survey undertaken among digital large-format PSPs at the start of this year was somewhat more upbeat (https://www.imagereportsmag.co.uk/widthwise2018) – have things changed much in the last six months? Is your outlook more, or less, positive for the future?

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