Branching into the field of point-of-purchase sign making can help you tap into literally endless business with retail sales customers. The choice to do it yourself or to work with a dedicated outside vendor will help guide your profitability.
AS EFFECTIVE AS EVER
While we live in an age where electronic advertising has revolutionized the way that people are influenced to buy everything from toothpaste to televisions, old-fashioned point-of-purchase displays are still a critical tool in the retail world.
From colorful refrigerator-case laminates beckoning you to buy the newest soda at your local convenience store to the giant, colorful window displays announcing this season’s new fashions at the mall, it’s a sign-making avenue that promises a nearly endless cycle of production and updates.
Like many new avenues for small but established sign shops curious to expand their business, the P.O.P. market requires a shift in tools or some considerations of working with a better-equipped vendor already set up to do high-volume printing jobs. Do things right and the local customers you have coming to you asking for P.O.P. work might just blossom into a lucrative new business, with jobs you can add to your existing work flow.
Not sure where to start? An easy entry point might be as simple as a printer if you don’t have one already in the shop.
Rich Reamer, director of marketing for Canon USA, says that with 44-inch models available in the mid-$3,000 to $5,000 range, it’s a relatively inexpensive starting point that offers lots of flexibility for P.O.P. output—with some easy-to-use production software that’s equally suited for seasoned designers.
“We’ve come a long way in flexibility, and you can handle outdoor ink, latex or even process wearables,” he says. “It’s very easy to create outdoor banners or even print peel-and-stick signage like Fathead products–you just punch some holes and add grommets and your job is done. If you’re just getting started, the cost per product is also pretty attractive–you can do a 24” x 36” P.O.P. sign for less than $20, and sell it for much more.”
Canon offers its Print for Pay guidebook to give smaller sign-making companies some ideas of the costs and opportunities for larger-format printing. For those who feel like they’re ready to take a bigger step, Reamer says Canon’s Océ Arizona line of large-format flatbed UV printers can produce much larger outdoor P.O.P. signage (including banners able to last six months), with dimensions as large as 98” x 120” and as deep as two inches thick.
A free version of Canon’s Poster Artist software (or a $395 pro version) also offers an easy starting point for creating shelf talkers and basic retail displays for customers, with a huge variety of templates for beginners. There’s also a plug-in to allow direct output from Microsoft Office, for very easy output from documents.
OURSOURCING YOUR P.O.P.
If an equipment investment is not in the cards for your business, you can also consider working with an established expert to outsource your P.O.P jobs. Hartford, Connecticut’s Merritt Graphics is one of the best-known vendors for printing commercial P.O.P. displays on a tremendous range of substrates and final product forms, from window displays to murals and more.
Pat Freer, VP of Merritt’s “big color” division, says that companies such as his can serve as an effective conduit for producing high-quality work for small- and mid-sized retailers and wholesalers, helping local sign makers satisfy their customers’ production needs.
“There are some companies I consider to be high-volume competition for us, but there’s not a lot who can do it on a consistent basis,” Freer says. “You have to be careful what you sign up for–a commercial printer has to be able to read the bandwidth and have the dedication and capability to turn out good results. We have to size up the business we get and right-size it. Very large national clients are probably more suited for the RR Donnellys of the world; we can get results for a nice, smaller client, something with 200 to 300 stores.”
Freer says that the digital advertising revolution has also led to some enhanced opportunities for sign makers hoping to get a piece of the ever-expanding and tremendously busy P.O.P. business.
“Social media is really adjusting the metrics, and those digital campaigns mean that P.O.P. advertising products that used to be good for four to five weeks now sometimes need to be changed out in just a week,” he explains.
“My daughter works as a graphic designer with Ann Taylor, and it’s not uncommon for them to change their creative in as little as a few days, practically on demand, with rapid-fire adjustments as part of their multimedia campaigns. Companies with the ability to react to that are well-positioned to be a good provider,” and a good partner to even the smallest sign shop, he adds.
To that end, Merritt Graphics and other commercial printers of its scale can do wide-format latex, high-speed UV and direct-dye sublimation for fabric, both roll-to-roll or direct-to-substrate. Retail P.O.P., Freer says, frequently calls upon printers to combine a variety of substrates into a single print order, and the flexibility of a better-equipped printer can be critical in meeting those increasingly crunched deadlines.
“We have the infrastructure to be poised for growth with the latest equipment, and while we currently run two shifts a day, we can add a third shift or run seven days a week, if necessary,” he says.