Merritt Graphics debate

Using Textiles in the P.O.P. World

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

Textiles have taken the point of purchase retail display world by storm in the past few years. Most retail clients have embraced printed fabric because of its ease of use, light weight and rich look and feel. But new printing techniques are being developed all the time and the P.O.P. industry has embraced many of them, including floor graphics, wall graphics and magnet-based displays.

“The marketplace is changing so frequently, it is important to keep [clients] informed of new products on the market,” says Robb Schmit, president and owner of FASTSIGNS of Glendale in Glendale, California. “Most projects are multifaceted where they want to incorporate wall coverings with digital signage with floor graphics to create an image or brand as it pertains to their current offerings.”

Fabric signage has become very popular because, “It relates beautifully to retail advertising, especially the fashion industry,” says Pat Freer, vice president and Merritt Graphics Big Color Group director for Merritt Graphics in Hartford, Connecticut.

Freer says that his company was the first to bring a direct dye sublimation printer to the U.S. market from Europe. Merritt immediately paired it with an impulse sewing system.

“Between those two, we were early adopters of the latest equipment to print gorgeous dye sub prints,” he says.

Freer points out that anyone who produces dye sub graphics knows that producing a print is only half the story. It matters what happens to the print when it comes off the machine.

“You sew it, pillowcase zipper finish it, you make it part of a trade show booth,” he says. “There are a variety of cutting and sewing and finishing techniques deployed that are needed.”

Tension fabric displays are one of the most popular items in the retail point-of-purchase advertising market and they get better all the time.

“They are much better than they were a year and a half to two years ago and six months from now they will be better than they are now. It is ongoing,” Freer says.

Because of its fabric finishing capabilities, Merritt Graphics can complete huge projects, like 60-foot by 30-foot window spectaculars in airports.

It takes a lot of expertise to take the printed graphics and sew them together so neatly that the seams are not visible, he says. Merritt prints its graphic panels on a 126-inch wide printer.

Textiles are lightweight, which reduces shipping costs, and are very easy to install in trade show booths, extruded aluminum kiosks, pedestals and frame displays. Trade show booths have become like erector sets, with modular components that are easy to put together and take down. It saves companies money because the systems are so easy to use, store personnel can do the installation themselves.

Jay Buckley, president and owner of MegaPrint Inc. in Plymouth, N.H., says that he also sees the trend toward fabric printing and anything that is not rectangular so it will attract more attention.

Banks and retail establishments have been very interested in prints that are done on bumper sticker material that has a sticky note adhesive on the back, he says. Once the backing is peeled off, the prints will stick anywhere. They come off just as easily and, because of the special adhesive, they don’t leave a sticky residue behind.

MegaPrint does a lot of wall murals, especially for bars and restaurants.

“They set the mood in a restaurant with a wall mural. They are pretty easy to do. To put branding in a retail space, we’re seeing a fair amount of wall paper being done,” he says.

He adds that it isn’t just repeating wallpaper companies are interested in, like what you see in a Subway restaurant, but murals or artful themes that set the mood of the business.

“People are realizing that digital technology allows you to do special things in a store you couldn’t do before or you couldn’t do affordably,” Buckley says.

Every store is different so most wall murals need to be customized for the space. Most retail chains and restaurants don’t have identical wall space at each location.

Just because fabric has taken the retail P.O.P. market by storm doesn’t mean that more traditional P.O.P. advertising displays have gone by the wayside. Corrugated materials and board components are still used frequently in retail displays.

Merritt uses its high-speed digital flatbed printing systems to print on a variety of substrates.

“When you pair it with a custom cut design, digital cutters and routers, you can make beautiful retail P.O.P. displays for affordable prices,” he says.

Custom standees have become a very popular item for Merritt Graphics.

“It allows us the ability to make custom standees and life-size cutouts, which are a unique form of marketing for customers who want an out-of-the-box look and (want to) bring traffic to their store or booth,” he says.

FASTSIGN’s Schmit sees a lot of demand for visual magnetics—magnetic sheeting that is applied to the wall of a retail establishment that can be painted over and used as a backdrop for signs that have magnetic receptive materials adhered to the back of them. The system is easy to use and graphics can be layered on top of each other to promote different sales.

Visual magnetics can be paired with lightweight media, like fabric, which saves on shipping. And like easy-to-use fabric sign displays, visual magnetics can be installed and taken down by just about anyone in the retail environment.

“More and more customers are looking for complete solutions, not just fabric anymore or not just banners, they want to see what you can do with creating a new image within their environment that can incorporate wall coverings, fabric, visual magnetics and floor coverings,” Schmit says.

One fast-growing segment for Merritt Graphics is custom printed flooring. It’s a solid vinyl product that replaces vinyl flooring.

“The floors are the last frontier in retail organizations that haven’t been branded,” Freer says.

Merritt Graphics uses G-Floor Graphic, a vinyl flooring material that designs can be printed onto. It is much more durable than a floor wrap, which is not a long-term solution, he says. This is a flooring product that happens to be custom printed.

“The price of it is very comparable to doing a floor like that. By the time you add in installation of a traditional floor and a custom printed floor, it lines up pretty equally. … That is becoming very popular and new,” he says.

Custom printed floors have been very popular in automotive settings, like garages. They are just now becoming popular in museums, gift shops and retail displays, he says. It hasn’t taken off in corporations yet. Merritt Graphics installed a custom “wood” floor in a local broadcast studio about three years ago. The printed design still looks highly polished and brand new.

Hanging banners are also big in the retail arena. More businesses are choosing fabric banners, but Buckley says that his company still produces matte-finished vinyl signs that look nice and don’t reflect the overhead lighting.