By Melissa Donovan
Wide format print is moving, growing, and expanding into undeveloped countries. Print providers from all ethnicities take advantage of trade shows, networking sites, and social media—shrinking the world.
According to a recent study published by the Graphics of the Americas, the 2014 Latin American GDP is projected at 3.1 percent. This number, provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its World Economic Outlook report published in October 2013, is higher than the projected GDP growth for advanced economies such as the U.S., which is only reported to grow 2.6 percent.
With a commanding presence in Latin America, digital print continues to expand its influence across continents. U.S.-based vendors—manufacturers and distributors—are branching out over the border to either sell direct or through trusted supplier channels. Some have even opened satellite headquarters specifically designed to cater to the Latin American market.
This part of the world moves a bit slower and takes great stock in developing personal, face-to-face relationships. As such, distributors and manufacturers alike broaden wide format digital’s presence in Latin America. The future will certainly bring more diversity and noise—in a good way—to the graphic arts.
Slow Down, Speed Up
North America is often on the cutting edge of new trends. Once we try them out, play with them, and then decide they are worthwhile, they are dispersed into other parts of the world.
“The Latin American market is slower to adopt than our Northern American counterparts,” admits Daniel Vasquez, Latin American sales representative, Brand Management Group (BMG). He points to the example of ecological concerns, which are currently gaining traction in Latin America but were more heightened in North America years ago.
Latin America certainly expresses an increasing interest in environmentally friendly products and practices, according to Koji Imoto, VP export sales, Mimaki USA, Inc.
In addition, like North America—just at a slower pace—Fernando Urteaga, group manager commercial printing Latin America, Epson, says analog printing moving to digital, short run as a market demand, and high print quality are all standards expected in Latin America now.
“U.S. businesses tend to be early adopters of technology and also tend to set trends for other countries around the world. Accordingly, the Latin American market today reflects many of the dynamics we first saw emerging in the U.S. a few years back,” shares Amado Lara, international sales manager, Latin American region, Roland DGA Corporation.
Lara provides another example, such as how until recently Latin America largely focused on just a few applications. Today, however, a number of businesses diversify their product mix to include vehicle wraps and textiles. The U.S. on the other hand has been well diversified for awhile.
A Cultural Business Identity
Latin American-based business owners maintain an identity that is conducive to the rich culture and heritage of the nation. Urteaga explains that Latin America is a much more price-sensitive culture. “End users expect a quicker return on investment, as the economy is driven in large part by micro-businesses, many family owned,” he continues.
Bart Fret, director of sales, large format, GMG, agrees saying that it’s harder to sell large capital equipment in Latin America. “Money is a bigger thing, a cultural thing. There are expectations of making the process more social and negotiations are more deliberate,” he shares.
The social aspect of business dealings influences buying and selling. “Business is done so much on face-to-face relationships. It is much more difficult to leverage online buying and utilize Web-based tools for selling and marketing materials,” explains Phil LaFata, VP- sales and marketing, Arlon Graphics, LLC.
According to Fernando A. Tissnés, sales manager – Latin America, Seiko Instruments U.S.A., Inc., price pressures in Latin America are more aggressive due to the higher cost of money.
Cost is paramount, but quality is still of great concern. “I am seeing a shift towards better quality and longer lasting products. Customers buying purely on price seem to be fading away and business owners are looking more at quality printing and longer lasting equipment,” shares Chris Jaeger, sales engineer, Latin America, Mutoh America, Inc.
Lara agrees, citing the recent trend of quality standards increasing across the market. “The trend is fueled by advancements in printhead, ink, and media technology. It is also the result of an increasingly sophisticated consumer in the Latin American marketplace. Companies realize that they benefit from investing in higher end graphics.”
Application versatility is popular in North America, and gaining traction in Latin America. The ability to utilize wide format digital print as a means to end is seen in a different light.
“In general, in Latin America, wide format is not only seen as a commercial application, in the context of photo, proofing, or signage markets, but wide format is described and executed as an on demand business model,” shares Epson’s Urteaga.
Urteaga is on point, with sublimation printers making a huge push into the Latin American marketplace as more buyers look for personalized apparel items and soft signage. “The ability to produce short, customized runs profitably is helping businesses capitalize on this market trend,” continues Lara.
“Demand for intermediate grade and premium grade products will continue to expand as buyers become more savvy and demand longer term, higher quality graphics and installations,” adds LaFata.
Jaeger sees a unique market that is constantly changing and growing. He points to Latin American countries investing in tourism, which creates opportunities for growth and development of the sign and advertising market. A perfect example, Brazil hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, both of which provide graphics opportunity.
Large format vendors are making inroads into the Latin American community in a number of ways.
Arlon recently began focusing on Mexico and Brazil, placing salespeople in both markets, where prior to this, it only had one or two representatives throughout Latin America. Its online Web videos, in both Spanish and Portuguese, have had a major impact on the market as well as participating in local trade shows. The company also hired both Spanish and Portuguese wrap installers to conduct training throughout Latin America.
BMG, a distributor of both Hewlett-Packard and Kodak wide format media products, services clients across Latin America from Mexico to Argentina.
Epson offers a full presence in Latin America, with local supply, service, and support. This allows the company to design and manufacture specific products for the Latin American market.
Mimaki offers its entire product line from North America to Latin America. It also offers targeted products such as a 3.2-meter printer, the SWJ-320 Series, to its Latin American customers.
Mutoh promotes its brand through print and Web advertising in Latin America. It also uses open houses in various locations to help distributors promote the Mutoh brand. The company offers about 90 percent of its U.S. product line to the Latin American market.
Roland maintains a strong presence in Latin America with a Spanish version of its Web site, private open houses, and support for its dealers at various trade shows throughout the country. In addition, Spanish-speaking service and support professionals are on staff to maintain accounts. The same products offered in Canada and the U.S. are also offered in Latin America.
Seiko offers a dedicated team to the Latin American market that is not only bilingual but bicultural, allowing for support in a native language. It also developed its newer ColorPainter printers with modularity in mind, letting price sensitive buyers enter the market at a lower cost.
Jaime Ghisays, GM, Innovaciones del Futuro, a distributor based in Colombia, is very optimistic on the future of wide format printing in Latin America. “The steady growth, year after year, enables us to project a bright future. We also see an expansion of applications, which bring new opportunities and higher margins for printers,” he shares.
Digital Output recognizes the expansion of wide format into Latin American communities. As such, we recently introduced a sister publication—Digital Output Español—specifically targeting print providers and buyers located in this geographical area. Learn more at the dedicated Web site, www.digitaloutput-esp.com.
May2014, Digital Output