Tread on Me: The Floor Graphics Opportunity
Of all the changes COVID brought to our lives, the boost it gave to wide-format graphics has had the most positive impact on in-plants. Never before have so many wall, door, and especially floor graphics been printed. According to IPI research, 64% of the in-plants that produce floor graphics reported “significant” increases in this business during the pandemic, with another 22% seeing “slight” increases. This was the largest business increase of any in-plant application in 2020.
“Before COVID, if 20% of retailers were using floor graphics, that has now grown to close to 100%,” reports Micah Causey, VP of Business Development, FloorSignage LLC, in Sunbury, Ohio. “Floor graphics have almost been in a long infancy since the early- to mid-2000s, and now they’ve really come into play as a viable, important aspect of media signage. We’re going to see a lot more floor graphics for promotional and advertising, but from a wayfinding aspect too. Now people are used to seeing floor graphics, it opens them up for further use in directional and wayfinding.”
In-plants are reporting the same thing.
“Seeing what our shop can do has definitely created more awareness,” attests June Lewis, manager of Print and Document Services at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Mich. “I expect more interest once we are able to plan and hold events again.”
“Yes, we have seen new requests for [floor] signs,” agrees Ed Arning, director of market development in the Creative Marketing Solutions unit at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). His in-plant was asked to print floor graphics for the self-guided campus walking tour. The shop printed 80 square graphics, which were stuck onto concrete sidewalks all over campus.
As the messages on these floor graphics migrate from “Stand 6 Feet Apart” to marketing or directional information, the opportunities for in-plants will only increase. Already this signage is getting more colorful and elaborate than the early COVID signage was.
“MTSU is certainly shifting its message from the serious message of caution and concern as the pandemic advanced to the joy of returning to campus, classes, and friends this fall,” says Arning.
As their floor graphics business has increased, in-plants have learned some valuable lessons along the way.
“We had always just cut square corners,” notes Paul Wannigman, Print Services Manager for Coborn’s Inc., in St. Cloud, Minn. “We have found with our Colex [cutter] we can put a radius on the corners and thus not [have] such a sharp corner point — less chance of floor scrubbers pulling them up.”
In addition to adhesion concerns, image durability has been another issue for in-plants.
Lamination was an option, but some in-plants found that to be one step too many.
“We learned that it was easiest to use a material that didn’t require lamination, since we didn’t have the time to run multiple processes on a highly in-demand product,” says Nathan Thole, director of Iowa State University Printing Services, in Ames, Iowa. “panoRama Walk & Wall was very successful for us, as long as we kept enough in stock. It was hard to come by at times.”
As evidenced by MTSU’s campus walking tour signage, outdoor graphics are destined to rise in popularity too.
“We’re really seeing the outdoor aspect of our product line continue to grow, as now that more people are getting involved in floor graphics, there’s that interest in how can we take that message outside of our retail store, or outside of our schools,” observes Causey of FloorSignage LLC. “For example, children queuing up outside, or bringing people off the sidewalk into our restaurant or into our store.”
As the need for COVID floor graphics begins to wane, in-plants should capitalize on the pandemic-inspired interest in floor graphics and seek other opportunities to produce this work.
Karis Copp is a U.K.-based journalist and communications specialist. With a background as a writer and editor in the print industry, she writes about print and technology news and trends, reports on industry events, and works with businesses to help them tell their stories and connect with their customers. Follow her on Twitter @KarisCoppMedia.