Shoot for the Stars

Wraps Report

In the graphics industry, wrap projects can differ across the board. For some, wrapping is an intricate and lengthy process, ranging from detailed design to precise installation. Others have the routine down to such a science it nearly resembles assembly line production. So what is your business scenario?

Whatever the case, you generally can expect that you will produce only what you put into your wraps business. For example, if you own a graphics house and dedicate a quarter of your work to providing wraps, don’t expect to reap the same results as the shop that is focused a full 100 percent on wraps.

That’s not to say that you have a bad business model if only a portion of your business is devoted to wraps; however, if you would like to grow that side of your business, you must have all of the right pieces in place. Those pieces include the necessary equipment, a proper knowledge base and the capacity to handle an increased workload. This column will focus on tips from professionals who can help build a wrap shop from its infancy stages and guide it toward continued success.

Beginner Basics
To begin, having the right staff, space and plan in position is essential. If your shop only has a couple of employees, obviously, you are limited to the amount of work you can handle. You also may outsource some work if your building is not large enough to house a printer, laminator, rolls of vinyl, etc.

Larger shops, on the other hand, may employ hundreds of workers and assign them to specific departments that easily can accept the many wrap jobs assigned to them. Production, installation, management and sales units will work in unison to finish the tasks at hand. But, in the end, whether small or large, the business owner must recognize how much work he or she can handle at one time, so the shop is not over- or under-worked.

Perhaps staff and space issues are common sense, but the next step may not be so clearly defined: the proper material and equipment selection.

For most wrappers, choosing the right vinyl is a key issue, and with all other factors constant, it will come down to what has the most comfortable feel. Jamin McKee, of Husky Signs in Boulder, Colo., says, “We’ve used 3M Controltac IJ180 film and have seen the wonderful characteristics of how bubbles and wrinkles just go away.” Other wrap firms, such as SkinzWraps, Dallas, are dedicated Avery users. Of course, price sometimes can determine the kind of vinyl that is used, but if given a choice, wrappers normally will stay brand loyal.

Newcomers to the wrap scene should take the time to visit local distributors or travel to a regional or national trade show to find what materials and equipment will fit best with their shops. Manufacturers are happy to demonstrate how vinyl, digital printers, ink and other products will perform for a wraps job. If you are able to find a fit with one or many manufacturers, you most likely will establish a good, long-term working relationship with them. According to Mike Feldberg, of The Color Spot, Smyrna, Ga., “We work very closely with each of our vendors. They all are willing to go above and beyond to ensure that we succeed. From the newest machines, products and application techniques, our vendors are always a step ahead of their competition.”

Gaining an Edge
Think of a wrap job as at least a three-headed monster. It consists of quality design, quality printing, and quality installing. Every part is important, but the accentuation of quality could be the most crucial.

“I bring many years of hard work and talent to the industry,” says Jeff Chudoff, of Arizona Designs, Maple Shade, N.J. “Quality is the key to perpetual [success].”

So how is such quality achieved? Is there some kind of formula or methodology that is followed whole-heartedly in the industry? Well, not exactly. In fact, a quality wrap may be accomplished with different tactics based on the shop. As explained earlier, outsourcing could be an angle to pursue in order to gain an edge. For Husky Signs, “One of the things we are doing is outsourcing ourselves for installations for other sign companies, specifically for printed digital media,” says Mark Johnson, owner of the company.

Customer service is another important aspect, yet it’s sometimes surprisingly overlooked. Many shops, especially smaller ones, will rely on word-of-mouth exposure to promote their businesses, so keeping current customers happy and passing along the good word is imperative. That said, offer up advice to your clients whenever possible, so you are consistently keeping the lines of communication open while exuding professionalism.

“The main things I always tell my clients are to make sure to include their company name, logo, phone number, Web site, services offered and branding message,” says Feldberg. “If you can get the person in the car next to you to remember these things, they are going to be more likely to contact the company.”

Of course, some creative thinking also might differentiate your shop from others. One practiced method is wrapping a vehicle horizontally instead of the traditional vertical style. Chudoff says, “We're doing a lot of one-piece wraps. Running the material sideways so there are no seams. The installation is tougher, but the 'forgiving nature’ of vinyl, like 3M 180c, makes the job go easier.”

This technique likely will save a shop some money on vinyl and eliminate unsightly seams on the car that would appear as imperfections. However, horizontal wraps only work on smaller vehicles, such as Mini Coopers; large vehicles, like Sprinter vans, are more effectively wrapped with the vertical technique.

Advanced Thinking
When you really commit yourself to wraps, you learn the things that can’t be taught. Networking connections, media contacts, franchising opportunities and more become easily attainable. For a company such as SkinzWraps, this sort of success has come through hard work and persistence.

Most recently, SkinzWraps took on a project for famous motorcycle machinist Jesse James. Promoting James’ new show “Jesse James is a Dead Man,” SkinzWraps used Avery MPI 1005 Easy Apply RS and DOL 1060 Gloss overlaminate to cover a sprawling Sprinter van. Taking up three sides of the vehicle is the TV show’s attractive logo, but also seen on the Sprinter are Jesse James’ “Pay Up Sucker” and the SkinzWraps logos.The inclusion of the wrap company’s logo on a client’s vehicle is a great way to promote wrapping capabilities. After all, wraps are a form of adverting; you may as well use some space for yourself.

SkinzWraps has the resources to produce the design for this wrap as well as the printed graphics and installation. In addition to that, the company also holds training seminars for those interested in wrapping. Oh, SkinzWraps also is a publicly traded company on NASDAQ.

So those of you who think wrapping is just a niche, a phase, a now-thing forget about that. Shoot for the stars right now. If you wait until tomorrow to get into the game, it just might be too late.