Vehicle Wrapping: Racing Ahead

Among the most exciting and fast-paced areas of the sign industry, we analyse the vehicle wrapping market and pick out some of the latest and most important trends from this sector

Rob Fletcher
August 7, 2023
Grafityp offers a wide range of vehicle wrapping materials

In years gone by, vehicle wrapping and graphics may have been seen as something reserved for promoting a business or brand. Fast-forward to the current day and the market is now packed with examples of work that go far beyond this, as consumers join in with the fun by overhauling the look of their own vehicles.

Add in the emergence of popular industry events such as the FESPA World Wrap Masters, which celebrates the work of wrappers from around the world, and the new FESPA Wrapfest that debuted last year, and this demonstrates the thirst for more development in this area.

With this in mind, we speak with a number of suppliers about demand for certain types of work and how sign-makers can capitalise on this, as well as a professional wrapper working on the frontline of the market to gain insight into what this sort of work involves.

Increasing Popularity

First up is Grafityp, which offers a range of solutions for use in the vehicle wrapping sector. Graham Jones, head of marketing at Grafityp, says the vehicle wrap market keeps growing year-on-year and is becoming even more popular with new, funky colours and improved technology.

“The steady rise in the market is helped by everyday people wanting their vehicles to look unique with eye-catching colours,” Jones explains, adding: “The market will continue to grow at a constant rate as more people utilise these tools.”

Looking at the current market at the trends sign-makers should be aware of, Jones picks out some of the most popular products that are being put to use on vehicle décor jobs. These include matt finishes, which have been popular for a number of years now as a way of adding a new look to vehicles.

Grafityp says its solutions are suitable for wrapping all shapes and sizes of vehicle

New colour trends include pastels, with these being utilised in a range of innovative ways by both brands and consumers, while the demand for increased sustainability and greener services has pushed many wrappers to begin using PVC-free materials, of which there is now a wide range to choose from.

Jones also notes that expansion in the sector has been supported by advancements in terms of adhesive technology, which he says has come a long way in recent years as a result of the ongoing development by manufacturers and suppliers. Stand-out features such as air escape and repositionable adhesives are now widely available on products, which Jones says allows for faster and easier installations when it comes to vehicle wraps.

With this in mind, Jones goes on to draw attention to some of the latest wrapping solutions from Grafityp. The company recently linked up with SOTT to launch an entire series of wrap films, consisting of over 60 colours and effects plus three printable and four laminate options.

“This new series features the latest technologies, enhanced colour depth and more edgy solutions for wrappers looking to add all manner of effects with wrapping,” Jones says.

Master Wrappers

Swinging back to the FESPA World Wrap Masters, the grand final of this year’s event took place at the FESPA Global Print Expo 2023 in Germany. The competition pits wrappers from around the world against each other in regional events, with the winners of each facing off at the grand final.

This year, Denmark’s Simon Manley Jokumsen was crowned the World Wrap Master 2023, having held off tough competition from other talented wrappers during the two-day event. Belgium, England, Finland, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands and Norway were also all represented in the final.

Professionals in vehicle wrapping and detailing were invited to tackle a series of challenges as part of the prestigious competition. This year, this included wrapping motorbike helmets (Scorpian EXO-Combat) and a balloon dog statue.

Denmark’s Simon Manley Jokumsen was crowned the World Wrap Master 2023. Picture: FESPA

“I have been trying so many years now and finally I got it,” Jokumsen says, adding: “This is my sport, my hobby, I love it and I do it every day. I have a burst in my stomach when I come here, I love it.”

Judges this year included previous champions, Ivan Tenchev and Kiss Lajos, alongside guest judge Carlos Santana and EmCee Ole SolskinRavn.

“There were some really amazing wrappers there with skill; we had master installers,” Tenchev said, adding that the competition is like a “family” and a good place to learn new skills and techniques, amplifying the importance of winning to finalists.

Factoid: Denmark, England, Finland, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands and Norway were represented in the World Wrap Masters 2023 final

Christophe Inigo, deputy sales director of Hexis, one of the event’s sponsors this year, also talked up the importance of the World Wrap Masters to vehicle wrapping market and the wider industry.

“We appreciate the value in supporting this important event as it brings us closer to the installers directly and our worldwide applicator community,” Inigo comments.

Duncan MacOwan, head of events and new media at FESPA, adds: “We are delighted with the quality of competitors from across the globe and the response from our community, who are so open in sharing their wealth of experience and engaged to learn from each other.”

A Strong Sector

One of the competitors that featured in the grand final this year was Michael Szwacki, the director of MEK Wrap Squad, who won the World Wrap Masters UK and Ireland at the first edition of WrapFest earlier this year. This was the second consecutive year he has won a regional event after clinching victory at the World Wrap Masters Europe leg in 2022.

Though Szwacki missed out on a spot in the final, missing out by a matter of points in the semi-final leg, he says the thrill of taking part means he could be back for more in 2024 – despite having previously said this would be his last time competing after ten years.

“Up to the semi-final, I was leading by over 100 points, which is unheard of,” Szwacki says, adding: “But I made a very important strategic mistake in the semi-final and missed the final by seven points. It was very frustrating, but many people don’t understand how strict those competitions are; every single bit is pointed so choosing the correct strategy is very important.

“I was saying to myself this is my last year of competing but I’m still very hungry for that one most important trophy so I’m not saying no yet, and you may see me again on the stage next year.”

Michael Szwacki, director of MEK Wrap Squad, won the World Wrap Masters UK and Ireland

Offering insight into the market at MEK Wrap Squad as a business, Szwacki is very positive about the current situation in vehicle wrapping, saying the sector is as strong as it could be.

“After a bit of a fall during lock down and then straight after that, global issues in the vinyl and car industry – lots of delays with manufacturing vinyl and even bigger delays with delivering new vehicles, especially vans for businesses – we have noticed a massive pick-up in the past 12 months,” Szwacki explains.

“Right now, we are having the best problem, which is the number of orders we are struggling to fulfil. We have been fully booked for a long time ahead, while vinyl manufacturing is in full swing too, therefore we have no reason to complain.

“The colour change industry may be having a bit slower time as there is a massive boom in paint protection film (PPF), therefore many customers, specifically brand-new vehicles, are choosing this over colour change, but I think that is a good sign too.”

In terms of pinpointing trends in the wrapping market, Szwacki says there are no specific trends, but more a mixture of everything. Be this simple advertising on a company van or a partial wrap that can be very complicated design-wise, Szwacki says wrappers should open themselves up to all kinds of work to capture as many customers as possible.

We have noticed a massive pick up in the past 12 months

“My work is a mixture of commercial and high-quality colour change including some crazy designs that require some specific techniques of preparing the graphics in the way that not many people would think is possible to achieve,” Szwacki says.

“Many of my jobs are for a specific customer base that don’t like to shout about it, therefore my social media can be a little bit as sometimes I’m basically not allowed to share anything. But as long as my customer is happy, then I am happy as well.”

As to the type of materials MEK Wrap Squad works with, Szwacki says the company, and indeed the industry, is blessed with advancements in recent years. He says most of the materials are very easy to fit, but there are still some very specific techniques for each manufacturer and if used wrongly, the material can still cause issues.

The World Wrap Masters 2023 final took place at the FESPA Global Print Expo 2023. Picture: FESPA

“All films have some sort of air release feature, which helps applying vinyl without any air trapped behind it, but the one feature that you should look for is tech that helps to speed up the job massively,” Szwacki says, adding: “For example, 3M film products have Controltac, Avery Dennison RE and Arlon with Flite. I used this in 99% of my jobs.”

Having been affiliated with the wrapping industry for a long time, Szwacki says he is keen to give back to fellow wrappers to help them on their own journey. Last year, he took on a new role as training manager at William Smith, a specialist supplier of wrapping films and other materials.

“It’s a part-time job so I work there for two weeks in a month and most of that time is filled with training days,” Szwacki explains, adding: “Having that extra time allows me to bring the training sessions to the next level and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

Szwacki’s passion for wrapping sums up this area of the industry perfectly. Wrappers clearly love what they do and working with customers on new and innovative idea. Working with the latest materials and ensuring you have the right skills will allow you to compete with the best in this market – and maybe even challenge Szwacki and others at the FESPA World Wrap Masters next year!

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