P.O.P. Trends

Paula Aven Gladych is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colo. She can be reached at pgladych@gmail.com.

Point-of-purchase displays are still the best way for restaurants and retailers to get the word out about what they are selling. Simple screen-printed banners and posters used to be the norm, but advances in digital technology have made it even easier for companies to produce custom graphics in just about every size and shape imaginable.

Now, print shops can produce just about anything clients can dream up, including floor graphics, shelf talkers, ceiling danglers, standees, bins, backlit signs and chalkboards.

No matter where you go as a consumer, you are peppered with messages. Some are subtle and some are not so subtle. Hotels. Casinos. Drive-thru restaurants. Grocery stores. Big box retailers. They all use P.O.P. displays, and the industry continues to evolve, says Mike Latiolais, sales manager and social media specialist for Lafayette, La.-based Pixus Digital Printing.

“People still buy banners, but our equipment is the most modern in putting banners together because we have machines here that can actually weld seams on banners,” he says. “The banner part hasn’t changed but the quality has changed.”

Pixus, which has been around for about 22 years, serves 500 businesses and 200 casinos across the country. The company specializes in large-format digital printing.

“We do an awful lot of P.O.P.: posters, backlits, regular signs created from different substrates, like Dibond,” Latiolais says. “If the technology and product is out there we will use it or find it.”

Pixus employs four graphic designers and it has a 60,000-square-foot facility housing flatbed printers, roll printers, laminators and routers. It has two 15-foot flatbed printers, one of which is “the newest technology in the world,” Latiolais says.

The swissQprint Nyala can print white ink and varnish and has an adaptable roll printer. That is the newest addition to the Pixus arsenal and the machine in which the company is most proud. The machine can even print photo quality images on glass and Plexiglas.

Pixus has two HP Designjet Z6200 poster printers that are used almost exclusively for posters and backlit signs. It has two digital MultiCam digital routers, so it can cut material to different sizes and shapes, including standees, which are custom cutouts of any size. 

It works with architects to print fabric building facades and mesh fence screens that are used in building construction.

“What continues to evolve in P.O.P. is the selection of materials that are constantly being produced because manufacturers want to sell their products so they are constantly introducing new things to print on: poster boards, gator board, die bond, those kinds of materials,” says Latiolais. “We can be a little more creative in shape and size.”

He adds that customers will continue to use point-of-purchase displays as long as marketing people come up with new ways to get attention.

“Attention grabbing is the key to create awareness and engage the customer because in most cases you only have 2 or 3 seconds to engage a customer and then they move on. P.O.P. is very important anyplace that retail merchandise is sold. It just keeps getting bigger and better,” says Latiolais.

Pixus continues to grow and expand its business as point-of-purchase displays grow in popularity.

David Haroonian, owner of FastSigns Los Angeles, prints a lot of P.O.P. One of the most popular is printing on foam core with an easel back or no easel back. They can be placed on tables for temporary popup notices at events. The company also produces graphics for retractable banner stands.

“They come in various sizes; some are telescopic and some are not. They are basically full-color graphics on a vinyl banner that has a base that retracts and a pole that holds it up. Some can adjust but some are fixed. It comes with a case that retracts down into a small package you can take with you to trade shows,” Haroonian says. Retail establishments use them as well.

Digital displays are becoming more common as well for people who have the funds, he says. 

FastSigns does both digital and printed, but printed is still the company’s bread and butter business. 

“More and more people use digital if their budgets allow them, but usually, a printed product is a lot less,” he says.

Digital displays are more long-term than short-term products, he said.

FastSigns Los Angeles works with retail, construction, trade shows, big and small companies. 

“For us, our number one priority is service and quality and timely expedition. We are really known to get it done quickly and right. We take care of our customers,” Haroonian says.

The company, which is based in the Beverly Hills/West Hollywood area, uses printers, plotters, laminators and routers to get the job done. The substrates in biggest demand are vinyl and foam core.

KDM P.O.P. Solutions Group in Cincinnati, Ohio, develops point-of-purchase displays for big box retailers, beverage companies and quick-serve restaurants. 

“We don’t see a lot of things changing very much regarding the types of things we make,” says Maureen Gumbert, marketing manager for KDM. “We are asked to [print] on different materials or in different ways to accomplish something.” 

KDM prints a lot of floor graphics, ceiling graphics, posters, menu boards, pole signs, shelf talkers and ceiling danglers.

For the beverage industry, KDM uses screen printing, digital or offset printing to print on plastics. One of the new materials KDM is seeing a lot on the beverage side is corrugated plastic. The printer also is seeing more high-density polyethylene with a high recycle content that is very flexible and not as brittle as traditional polystyrene or polyethylene, Gumbert says.

The print shop is doing a lot of P.O.P. on wall fabric for retail décor and murals and mesh banners for the home improvement sector. Perforated window graphics have become very popular, particularly in the quick serve restaurant market. These graphics allow customers to look out of the restaurant, but people driving by only see the advertisements.

Chalkboards are also in high demand. 

“We can print to a chalkboard material or even print to plastic material and do a clear coat that makes the surface receptive to chalk,” Gumbert says. These are used as A-frame signs outside, inserted into a frame or as a P.O.P. display inside a grocery store. 

Many of KDM’s larger clients are converting their backlit menu boards into magnetic. “They are actually getting rid of the lighting altogether,” she says.

KDM’s business has grown steadily the past few years. In February, it added a new HP Latex 3000 Press. The large-format digital press prints at up to 1200 dpi, at speeds up to 1,000 square feet per hour on a variety of rolled print media. It also is adding two EFI VUTEk HS100 Pro UV inkjet presses. The 126-inch-wide presses use an LED/UV hybrid ink curing process that prints on a wider variety of roll and rigid media. It prints as fast as screen printing but with a quality that is comparable to offset printing. 

KDM also does screen printing, large format UV offset, conventional offset, small format digital printing, flexographic and photographic imaging in its four print production facilities in the Midwest and southeastern U.S.

Recent retail studies have shown that customers are still making 82 percent of their purchases in stores rather than online, “which is really good for our business,” Gumbert says. “A lot of people say they are going online, but if 82 percent of purchases are made in stores, P.O.P. is very much alive.”

Sign Language XL is a large print shop based in Denver, Colo. About one-third of its business is making point-of-purchase displays. The company has been in the P.O.P. industry for 32 years, according to Scott Cohen, president of the company’s retail division. 

Sign Language works with many clients who already own the hardware, such as end caps, they are just looking for the topper to go on it. Other clients want a whole point-of-purchase solution, which includes the hardware the signs go into.

The company does a lot of free-standing displays or standees, including bins that sit on the floor and hold different products. It works with many quick serve restaurants producing boxes, window and floor graphics and posters.

The biggest trend Cohen sees in the P.O.P. industry is the move from analog to digital. 

“What I mean by that is in screen printing, you produce one color at a time. You are producing things in simple colors, like yellow and black. Analog is one color at a time. Analog is screen printing,” he says. 

With the advent of digital, designers can be much more creative because digital presses can print eight colors or more at a time. The technology is becoming so advanced that printing companies can use real photographic imagery and take advantage of the fact that “we can produce phenomenal color and get the desired end result with the designs they are coming up with,” Cohen says. “In the past it was a struggle. A designer would come up with something the printer couldn’t actually print. It is really great when someone sends a photo and we say, ‘absolutely we can do it.’”

Cohen went into business with his father 32 years ago.

“I have one foot in the past and one in the future. The rest is in the here and now,” Cohen says. 

Sign Language XL uses predominantly EFI VUTEk printers with some HP equipment scattered throughout.

It developed a product called Foxbox Originals, which is a trademarked and patented process that is a green alternative to a stretched canvas. 

“We created a canvas effect through cardboard. It is low cost and lightweight compared to canvas and environmentally friendly,” he says. “We’ve seen a lot of traction in the market buying this product.”

What makes it special is that it can be used like canvas wall art, but because of its low cost, it doesn’t have to be permanent, he says. 

“Instead of wall art—you can never throw it away—you can use it as part of a monthly P.O.P. program that is comparably priced to a traditional poster,” he says. “You are paying for the look but it is a step up from a poster. It looks like a gallery-wrapped canvas and hangs on the wall.”

Soft signage is another trend that has started to take off recently. Soft signage is dye-sublimated fabric, with a silicone edging sewn into it that enables the graphic to be inserted into an aluminum extrusion frame, Cohen says. 

The frame always stays, as a piece of hardware, and the graphic is easily changed out.

The frames can also have lighting inside, which really makes the color pop, he says.

“It’s cool and new and we’ll see how much ground it gains in the industry, but I’m optimistic on its success,” Cohen adds.