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Looking Ahead to 2020

As we head towards the end of yet another busy year in the sign industry, Rob Fletcher looks towards 2020 and finds out how you can prepare to sprint ahead of the competition

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How can you go for the top step in 2020?

Going for Gold in 2020

It’s that time of year again when we can all start looking forward to tucking into mince pies, opening a bottle of sherry and, perhaps more importantly, spending time with family and loved ones. The festive season is also a good time to reflect on the last year in the sign market and start looking ahead to next 12 months.

There’s already plenty to look forward to in 2020, not least in the sporting world, with Tokyo to host the summer Olympic Games, while a number of the Home Nations look set to qualify for football’s European Championships.

Closer to home in the sign industry, we have a whole host of highlights, including the debut edition of The Sign Show, scheduled to take place alongside The Print Show in September.

But what else is on the horizon for the UK sign-making sector? What should we be aware of heading into 2020 and how can sign businesses ensure they enjoy successful another 12 months?

Growth opportunities

Due to take place from September 27th to 29th, The Sign Show looks set to be a valuable addition to the UK sign calendar, being the only event entirely dedicated to the UK sign-making market. Throw in that it will be co-located with The Print Show, traditionally the host of many top names in wide-format print, and it’s an event that no UK sign business should miss.

The Sign Show will take place for the first time in 2020, running alongside The Print Show at the NEC

Chris Davies, event director for The Sign Show and sister event The Print Show, comments: “The Sign Show fills a huge gap in the UK sign industry – it will be an event that addresses all areas of the market, with the aim of helping sign companies of all shapes and sizes identify the tools they need to grow.

The Sign Show fills a huge gap in the UK sign industry – it will be an event that addresses all areas of the market, with the aim of helping sign companies of all shapes and sizes identify the tools they need to grow

“What is so unique about The Sign Show is that it will be the only event that will focus solely on UK sign-making. From A-boards and vinyl, to fixture and fittings, The Sign Show will have something for everyone.”

Key features of The Sign Show include ‘It’s a Wrap’, a section of the show where visitors can learn more about the opportunities in wrapping – a major area of growth for some time now. The Diversification Zone will offer an insight into opportunities in markets related to sign-making, such as promotional print and packaging.

But perhaps what makes The Sign Show particularly unique is that it will open on a Sunday, becoming the first UK exhibition of its kind to open on a weekend.

Davies explains the idea behind the weekend opening: “We understand that not everyone can make it to events during the working week as they are too busy in the office or workshop. By including a weekend day, we are making The Sign Show accessible to everyone, meaning that nobody misses out on the chance to see what’s new in the sign industry.”

Open-minded approach

The Sign Show will focus on the major trends in sign industry, but ahead of the event and as part of the planning process for 2020, what should sign-makers be on the lookout for? David Catanach, director of industry trade association ISA-UK, picks out interior and exterior décor as a “definite growth area” for the next 12 months.

Catanach adds: “Ten years ago, most sign companies would not have considered décor as something they were able, or wanted, to be involved with. However, it is now a service area which is very much in demand, with customers expecting real design flair and added-value service from their sign and graphics suppliers, not just an ‘off the shelf’ solution.

David Catanach, director of industry trade association ISA-UK, says interior and exterior décor will be a definite growth area for 2020

“Our key advice for any sign-maker and collaborative industries is to be open-minded in terms of new product innovation, skills development and technical procedures that are being introduced to the industry. It’s vital to invest in training, networking and education to ensure that you stay ahead.”

Catanach also picks up on the subject of Brexit, saying that once this has been resolved either way, he is hopeful that businesses across manufacturing will start to move forward more positively. 

He comments: “With new materials, techniques and markets to explore, as well as traditional sign-making skills to capitalise on, the sign and graphics sector has a plethora of opportunities available.

“With events such as the ISA-UK British Sign Awards and B2B exhibitions both in the UK and abroad readily available, ambitious professionals have every chance to build their knowledge base, network and collaborate with potential partners and help the sign industry to move forward.”

Combine your tech

Elsewhere, manufacturers and suppliers all have their fingers on the pulse of new developments in the industry, as they seek to forecast trends so that they can be ready to provide the solutions sign-makers and wide-format printers need to remain competitive.

Hybrid Services, the exclusive distributor for Mimaki in the UK and Ireland, has been incredibly successful at doing just this in recent years, bringing to market new kit to meet demand. In terms of what we can expect in 2020, Brett Newman, chief operations manager at Hybrid, says the company is looking forward to the market impact its new kit, launched at The Print Show 2019, will have.

Newman comments: “What was most interesting was the breadth of technology that Mimaki chose to release: core solvent printer and printer/cutter solutions in the new JV300/CJV300Plus range, a competitively priced grand-format solvent machine in the form of the SWJ-320EA, and a state-of-the-art flatbed LED UV printer the JFX200-2513EX.

(Above & below) Hybrid Services is expecting a positive response to the new Mimaki JV300/CJV300Plus range and LED UV printer the JFX200-2513EX flatbed

“All offering new levels of performance, attractive price points and cutting-edge technology, they demonstrate Mimaki’s commitment to delivering relevant, new and different solutions.”

Newman says that the technology will fit in with forecasted trends for the next 12 months, with Hybrid believing that being able to ‘mix and match’ new and existing tech will enable sign-makers and wide-format print providers to get the very best out of their machinery.

He expands: “Combining reliable solvent printers for core display work with something like Mimaki’s recently introduced UCJV LED UV printer/cutter that’s capable of delivering an even broader array of products such as backlit graphics, packaging proofs and labels, and the opportunities to grow start adding up.

“Invest in the right machinery, start exploring your hunches and you’ll soon find that it’ll do way more than you initially anticipated. New applications can bring new business – from both existing and new customers – and key to this is that combination of hardware and software that allow you to diversify and a willingness to do so.”

Invest in people

Having your ear to the ground is integral to finding out about the latest trends and developments in the sector. This message is championed by John Davies, UK managing director of the FASTSIGNS signage franchise network, who has picked up on some key trends that are set to continue into 2020.

John Davies, UK managing director at Fastsigns, says using signage as interior décor is a major trend set to continue into 2020

In particular, Davies picks up on using signage as interior décor as a major focus area for businesses involved in sign-making. He explains that signs can be much more than a static square display, and sign and wide-format print companies should take advantage of this.

Davies expands: “Instead, bold patterns, logos and graphics can be printed onto architectural and dichroic vinyl films that enable companies to create a new aesthetic by wrapping furniture, walls, floors and more. These products allow companies to update their facilities in line with their brand’s guidelines, without the price tag of redeveloping their whole office.

“Alongside this, I envisage there will be a move towards experiential signage, with a wider focus on incorporating image projections that feature moving elements to create a motion picture experience. These projected displays can also be used for decorative effect or a dynamic tool for displaying marketing messages.”

In terms of how sign-making companies can go about taking advantage of these trends, Davies advises they should first ensure they are doing the basics well, saying that with a solid core in place, they will have a platform to build on.

Davies expands: “The next step is to invest in good people, whether that’s partnering with experts in the industry or providing your staff with training that expands their skillset and in turn the services your business can provide.

“After that, ensure you make good investments in technology that not only help you provide a greater service to your customers but also keep your business at the forefront of the signage industry.

“This is a large focus for us here at FASTSIGNS and we are always looking for innovative ways to ensure our staff and franchisees are given the tools and facilities they need to excel.”

O Factoid: The Sign Show 2020 will take place alongside sister event The Print Show 2020 from September 27th to 29th at the NEC in Birmingham  O

These are just some of the many trends and developments the sign industry is set to experience in 2020. While manufacturers and suppliers will offer support in terms of identifying opportunities, sign-makers and wide-format print firms should also be on the lookout for market movement, keeping in constant contact with customers to identify demands for certain products and services.
Best of luck with your forward planning and here’s to another successful year in sign-making.

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