Thursday, 27 Jul 2017 18:29 GMT

Exhibition Icons

As the summer festival season rolls round again, Harriet Gordon takes a look at the exhibition and pop-up stands that might be gracing the fields of an event near you

Festival season

Where does the time go? Summer of 2017 is already well under way and the UK festival season is in full swing. Glastonbury, as usual, led the way back in June, but it is by no means the only event drawing the crowds. Whether you prefer the heavy metal of Download, the beats of Boomtown, or the boutique vibe of Bestival, there is bound to be a festival to suit your tastes. And with the big crowds, comes big business.

As well as ticket sales, festivals contribute to the British economy through the sale of various products, including food, drink, and other consumables. In most cases, they are the essential battle grounds of small, local, and boutique businesses. In addition to this, festivals are increasingly becoming a space to promote politics or market a cause.

With all this in mind, these events are surely the natural environments for exhibition and pop-up stands. Like all exhibitions for all industries, marketing is key for the businesses in attendance at these festivals; yet the events come with challenges. The systems that promote their products or services need to be portable, quick to set up and dismantle, and durable in all weather conditions, as well as providing the usual eye-catching qualities needed from any marketing material.

This is where the sign industry comes in. Luckily there are companies dedicated to providing a trade service when it comes to banners, exhibition systems, and pop-up stands that meet all these tricky requirements.
Playing pop-up

One such company is Venture Banners. This Chelmsford-based business prides itself on offering products to the trade on which they can make a profit. With multiple machines and over twenty members of staff, the firm aims to give all printers the opportunity to build a large-format revenue stream.

Scott Conway from Venture Banners says the firm is busy producing pop-up stands at this time of year, as exhibition season is in full swing

Director of Venture Banners, Scott Conway, comments on the high demand for pop-up stands during this festival-filled season: “We are in full swing producing pop-ups at this time of year as exhibition season is in full swing. Pop-up systems are a very popular product being simple to build and creating a great visual effect for exhibitors on a budget, though some of our customers are getting very clever in creating interesting shapes and displays with the pop-ups by using single panels to join different sized pop-ups together.”

Some of our customers are getting very clever in creating interesting shapes and displays with the pop-ups

He continues: “We have currently got all sizes of pop-up in stock and ready for graphics, and are currently putting together an ‘inspiration’ sheet to show what can be done with the humble pop-up to create a show stopping stand.”

Conway claims that pop-up systems are very popular for exhibitors on a budget, being cheap and simple to build, whilst creating a great visual effect

Another firm committed to providing profitable pop-ups is Ultima Displays. This company also works hand-in-hand with trade customers, offering a range of portable display solutions. To showcase its products Ultima has launched its new Display Solutions Handbook, giving an extensive guide to its product range. The handbook is unbranded, offering the firm’s trade clients the opportunity to show it to their own customers.

The handbook was launched at this year’s Sign and Digital UK, alongside a range of new products. Featured on the Ultima stand was the X Claim, a new multi-configurable stand from the firm’s pop-up range, which features the classic pop-up frame with new fabric graphics.

At this year’s SDUK, Ultima Displays exhibited the X Claim, a new multi-configurable stand

Also on display was the Kwickscreen retractable screen. This new product from Ultima Displays pulls out to a size of 3m and can be retracted for easy transportation. It can also twist to different angles, enabling users to create a back wall or a right angled display.

Feel the fabric

Yet these pretty and portable pop-ups are not for everyone. Hadley Weight, director and owner of Spirit Displays, explains why some clients are opting for a higher-end solution: “With the popularity of the tension fabric frames like our Spirit-Tex range, we find many of our customers would prefer to have a freestanding tension fabric frame over a pop-up.

“They find them more stable and more durable, providing a slim, sleek, more professional look. We are supplying them for use in exhibitions, temporary pop-up shops, marketing promotions and conferences.”

Weight continues: “We are able to manufacture in-house freestanding fabric tension units to any client requirement using our Spirit-Tex system. There is no real restriction on size or design—everything is bespoke fabricated to order. We can make a 1 x 2m to replace the standard type of roller banner or larger curved backdrop walls. We are also able to supply LED illuminated versions. The frames can be supplied as either single or double sided and the silicone edged fabrics are light and easy to install.”

Also in favour of the fabric exhibition stand is Grafenia, and its trade arm Marqetspace.
This firm has seen growth in its range of ink on fabric stands. Grafenia claims these products offer value for money, with a lightweight ‘pop and lock’ aluminium tube framework that is durable and easy to transport, while the fabric graphic is eye-catching, machine washable, and easily interchangeable.

Trade tasters
Indeed, the fabric sector has long been touted as one of the key diversification markets for printers, and offering products such as these could undoubtedly present an opportunity for many businesses. Yet printing on fabric is not the same as printing on paper, and partnering with a trade supply company, such as Grafenia’s trade arm Marqetspace, could be an ideal way to smooth your journey into this new marketplace.

Resellers of this firm in particular have been invited to sign up for a Lending Scheme whereby they borrow a display stand to promote the range to their clients. Each display stand from Grafenia comprises a collapsible aluminium frame, manufactured externally, and a graphic fabric ‘sock’ printed and finished at the firm’s Manchester Hub.

Another option for those companies considering diversifying into exhibition stands, but opting to take the plunge with a trade partner first, is Great Yarmouth-based Signwaves. Many of Signwaves’ portable exhibition displays can be bought as ‘hardware only’, enabling print-service-providers to apply their own graphics. If this does not appeal, however, the firm also offers in-house printing, for both trade and end-user customers.

The firm states: “Our portable exhibition displays and roll-up banner stands are designed for one purpose: maximum impact at minimum cost. Almost all can be used to attract the attention of onlookers in a wide variety of event and retail environments. The range has been purposefully chosen to be focused and functional, taking the confusion out of a multitude of virtually identical options.”

Signwaves draws particular attention to its “remarkably good value pop-ups, which create a powerful backdrop in next to no time and can be packed away just as quickly”.

Different strokes

One of the key debates, then, in the exhibition stand sector, seems to be over the various qualities and drawbacks of traditional pop-up vs fabric stands. Conway of Venture Banners acknowledges this dichotomy as one the key challenges the firm faces in the coming years: “We are seeing a small number of customers switching over to textile-based systems which, with their vibrancy of colour and seemless finish, look outstanding. However, these systems are considerably more expensive than the traditional pop-up at present.

Conway says one of the main challenges in the sector is the switch to textile-based systems, which are more expensive than the traditional pop-up

“Right now, I think the traditional pop-up system is a superb solution for the exhibition market. Looking to the future, though, as textile becomes more mainstream and reduces in price, in the long-term we may see more and more customers go over to the textile-based systems.”

O Factoid: Thousands of food traders, charities, and campaigning organisations apply to trade at Glastonbury Festival each year, to sell to the 170,000 visitors to the site. O

Spirit Display’s Hadley Weight, however, sees both solutions being able to co-exist well into the future. He explains: “One of the main challenges for businesses in this sector is to decide when to offer a stable, well-constructed bespoke unit or a portable pop-up. Both have their place. During the sales process, the challenge is to meet the clients’ expectations, budget and portability requirements. Cheaper pop-up units are flooding the market and it is important to educate clients on what makes a good investment for their specific needs.

One of the main challenges for businesses in this sector is to decide when to offer a stable, well-constructed bespoke unit or a portable pop-up. Both have their place

“Moving forward the pop-up units will continue to be a cost-effective, and transportable solution for some customers. They have been around for a long time and will continue to be a go to solution for many. Yet with dye-sub printing and fabric tension systems like Spirit-Tex, many clients are looking to stand out from the crowd.”

Festivals such as Glastonbury have become essential opportunities for small, local, and boutique businesses, who require portable and eye-catching marketing material

Listening to the experts, then, it seems the choice has to come down to the end-user for which solutions fits them best. Perhaps the purveyors of fine wine attending a sommelier conference will require a high-end look and finish, sacrificing a certain amount of portability and paying a higher price, to achieve the look they desire with a fabric stand. For a cider seller tramping through the mud at Glastonbury, however, a cheap, fun, easily-assembled pop-up stand might be just the ticket. At the end of the day, demand for exhibition stands is not looking set to wane anytime soon, so a quick look at the diversification opportunities now might see you perfectly placed to capitalise on the festival season 2018.  

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