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Signlink Live Review

Brendan Perring reviews Signlink Live 2017 and brings news of how the event will take shape in the future as it seeks to continue to provide a sign-focused event

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The Sign Group used Signlink Live 2017 to launch its new Neon Plus Digital series, which drew an intense amount of interest from visiting sign-makers

A “breath of fresh air”

The inaugural edition of Signlink Live has attracted widespread praise from exhibitors and visitors alike, after 5,335 people visited the show and co-located sister event The Print Show this year. Both events together serviced the full graphic arts supply chain.

Signlink Live was entirely focused on sign-making, with wide-format printing based next door at The Print Show. This set up seemed to go down well with exhibitors, who said visitors were much more focused on the sign-making side of production when in the Signlink Live hall.

(Above & below) A major attraction of Signlink Live was the special areas created by the organising team to educate, inspire, and entertain visitors

The reaction from visitors to Signlink Live was highly positive, with social media filling up with praise for the special visitor attractions that spanned everything from live neon blowing and special effects vehicle wrapping through to sign-writing, bas-relief carving, and gold leaf gilding.

Another key trend was that the concentration of core sign-making services, tools, and technology brought exhibitors to the show that had not graced a trade exhibition for many years. The result was that visitors’ eyes were opened to a wealth of new technology and creativity to help their businesses thrive.

An initial challenge for the event in its first year, at a venue that was less well known than the NEC, was to achieve a high degree of footfall. So for the first year, organisers set their sights on ensuring a very high quality of business attended through its extensive print, digital, and telephone-based marketing activities. The feedback from exhibitors was that this was achieved handsomely as most of the conversations they were having were serious and led to higher value direct sales and project commissions.

Brand Stand UK is a good example of this trend, and chose to lead with its Wave Light product, new for 2018. The ultra-bright LED backlit tension fabric display system has been six months in the making and, according to sales manager Alexander Brice, went down very well with focused visitors at the show.

Brice says: “The quality of visitor is high to Signlink Live; they are switched on and they know the market well. Five years ago, there would not have been as much fabric at the show, but it is now definitely an emerging side of the industry.”

The quality of visitor is high to Signlink Live; they are switched on and they know the market well

Chris Davies, event director for both events, says: “The whole idea behind Signlink Live was to offer something that takes the industry back to its roots—a show all about sign-making, and only about sign-making. Other events do have an aspect of sign-making, but also feature a lot of wide-format print, and this can get frustrating for exhibitors from a sign-making background, as it can draw visitors’ focus away.

The Signwriting zone of The Craftsman’s Corner was a hit with visitors, with The Pub Sign Co’s Neil Horne demonstrating how such skills are not only very much alive today, but can help a modern sign-maker offer their customers something unique

“From the feedback we have already had, we achieved exactly what we set out to do; exhibitors were able to speak with the visitors that really mattered to them. People who visited the Signlink Live hall knew exactly what they were going to see, and they were certainly not disappointed.”

People who visited the Signlink Live hall knew exactly what they were going to see

A change of name, not direction

It is this spirit that has seen Davies and the organising team decide to rebrand Signlink Live as The Sign Show going forward: “Our sister event The Print Show has proved such a success, we have opted to realign Signlink Live to bring it more in line with the event, and rebranding it as The Sign Show reflects this approach.

“To quote a famous advert, The Print Show does exactly what it says on the tin; it’s a show all about print. The Sign Show is exactly the same; it’s an independent show all about sign-making, dedicated to one of the most creative industries in the UK. Together, The Sign Show and The Print Show service the end-to-end needs of the modern sign-making professional.”

The Sign Show will once again be co-located with The Print Show in 2018 and will take place from September 18th to 20th at the NEC Birmingham in hall nine.

O Factoid: Signlink Live and The Print Show 2017 attracted 5,335 business professionals through their doors, and both shows will take place again from September 18th to 20th 2018 at the NEC Birmingham in hall nine.  O

One of the most recognisable brands at Signlink Live 2017 was Applelec, which lit up one corner of the hall with its bright LED sign-making solutions. Carl Eastwood, commercial director of Applelec, spoke positively about the show: “Set up was great, it has been friendly and organised. The show is a breath of fresh air.”

Applelec set out to shine at Signlink Live with a range of new trade products, chief among them being its new Neon Lux range of illuminated letters

Applelec was showcasing its new LED letter range, Neon Lux, which Eastwood said is efficient, with many different colours available, and is very strong. He adds: “There has been an emerging demand for internal low-level signage of this kind. It is ideal for retail, point-of-sale, and corporate branding.”

Elsewhere, The Sign Group reported a lot of interest in Neon Plus Digital, a new, patent pending addressable neon technology that can create intelligent effects and complicated animations.

Anthony Lowe, manager at The Sign Group, says Signlink Live was the perfect opportunity for the company to launch the product and offer visitors the chance to have a sneak peak at the solution. He says: “Everyone we spoke to was a potential new customer for us, which is great. Although it might be not as busy at times, it is a better-quality visitor coming through the doors.”

Everyone we spoke to was a potential new customer for us

Good for the industry

Signlink Live allowed companies to get their name and products in front of thousands of potential customers. Mike Vince, general manager at Irpen UK, explains that the event did just this for the Irpen brand, after a successful re-launch just two years ago.

Vince adds: “We are glad we exhibited, and I think the show has been good for the industry.”

Meanwhile, trade sign manufacturer and installer Signfab UK revealed at the end of day two that it had been able to generate more than 130 leads and installation manager, Alan Hill, was looking forward to following these up in the weeks after the event.

A few minutes after doors opened on day one of Signlink Live, Signfab staff were showcasing the immense variety of trade products and services it offers

Hill adds: “Being here with our competitors, we all know each other, but it works. We are promoting the services that we offer and it has been worth exhibiting.”

Being based in Telford itself, Sign Making Tools only had to make a short trip to the International Centre this year to speak with visitors about its wide range of solutions, which includes knives, storage racks, and squeegees.

Julia Hughes, director at Sign Making Tools, says: “We love meeting and chatting with people at the show. Our tools are built in-house and if we can make it, we do it. We see many people discover more to a range of products than they were aware of.”

Diverse base

A key comment from visitors was how diverse the exhibitor base was at Signlink Live, representing a very comprehensive cross section of the sign industry’s supply chain. Sloan LED is such an example and visitors could see its TEXA Frame product, a textile frame system with a light panel inside of it that can be set to change colour. Also on the stand was I-Sign Flex, a premium frame solution that opens with a patented spring mechanism that is cleverly concealed.

Signlink Live also played home to Smith, the manufacturing division of William Smith, and it is the first trade event the company has exhibited at since it launched last year. Kyle Giles, marketing executive of Smith, says: “The brand is still in its infancy so we are here to get the name out there into the market more. The opportunity to be here at a show that is about the essence of fabrication was one we could not miss.”

Smith focused on showcasing its very high levels of innovation and creativity at Signlink Live

Smith is a trade supplier of bespoke illuminated signage and is showcasing built-up letters, tray signs, and even a sign made out of astro turf, showing many of the different signs that are possible for a range of applications.

Another well-known brand to have done well out of the vent was Ashby Trade Sign Supplies, which has used not only the inside of its stand to showcase different types of signage but also built products into its stand design.

Ashby Trade Sign Supplies’ stand on the busy day two of Signlink Live. The firm is on an expansion drive and its marketing team says the show helped significantly with this project

It is this focus on product that is really important to the company for this particular show. Charlie Horseman, sales manager, comments: “We are quite unique in that we have brought a lot of products. Our objective is to make the most informative stand we can, as sign-makers want to see first-hand what is achievable, see what we do, and find out what we do that they were not aware of.”

Another important facet of Signlink Live was its special visitor attractions, of which For the Love of Neon was a real hit. Neon Workshops ran the area and demonstrated how to make this nostalgic medium. Richard Wheater from the company says: “We are enjoying spreading the good word of neon. It is nice to have a platform to set the record straight. The sign industry has become about maximising profit margins, but there is a niche of customers that want something crafted. Neon sticks out as an alluring alternative.”

Spreading the word

Another firm that took full advantage of Signlink Live was NCS Trade Signs. Nigel Stevenson, managing director at the firm said he was likewise pleased with the quality of visitors he has spoken with and praised organisers for running a sign-focused event.

“It’s been a really good show for us; we’ve had a lot of good enquiries and we are looking forward to following up with them soon,” Stevenson says, adding: “We think Signlink Live is such a good concept as it allows us to get in contact with the people that really matter to us.”

(Above & below) Whether it was sign-making tools for any job, highly bespoke trade products, or innovative time-saving technology, Signlink Live had something for everyone

Stevenson went on to say the main message NCS Trade Signs wanted to get across to visitors at the show was that it is capable of taking an almost any type of signage work—and a guided tour of the company’s varied stand certainly showed this off.

“We actually built our stand for the show, so that allows us to demonstrate one of our many skills,” Stevenson explains, adding: “We’ve got examples of the type of work we can produce, as well as the materials we use, all around the stand.”

One of the latest services now on offer from NCS Trade Signs is Prometric, a new metal finishing solution that features a super-smooth finish. Also available from the company is a material called Prolactec, which boasts anti-graffiti features and, as a result, makes it a popular choice in many sign-making projects.

Stevenson adds: “Our company strapline is simple; quality and service. We are a lean-thinking business that likes to build long-term relationships with customers and partners.

“It’s quite funny actually because when we decide to exhibit at a show like this, we always seem to be very busy with work back at our site in Derby. But it’s important for us to spread the word about our services and show off what we can do.

Signlink Live has allowed us to do just that and it’s been a success for us.”

So, it would seem in conclusion that the building blocks for this new annual show have been well laid. With the quality visitor, educational content, and professional organisation boxes already ticked, its 2018 home at the NEC will no doubt help to increase its baseline visitor footfall and tick that all important final box.

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