By Cassandra Balentine
Framing systems and displays are a staple at trade events and in retail. When these markets dried up overnight due to COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, many manufacturers and service providers were creative about making up for lost revenue.
Framing and display providers thought outside of the box or pivoted to other areas to ensure relevancy throughout COVID-19 lockdowns.
“At the start of the pandemic, Displays2go remained focused on the evolving needs of our customers and quickly pivoted into COVID-19-related product solutions. Through the launch of innovative safety essentials such as digital temperature scanners, curbside pick-up supplies, social distance signage, and floor decals, we were able to meet our customers’ needs with timely, innovative solutions,” recalls Lynn McElroy, product manager, Displays2Go.
Testrite pivoted similarly to COVID-19-related products, including hand sanitizer stands and shields. “Testrite is a U.S. manufacturer, and as such we were able to supply these needed products much faster than importers could re-stock,” shares Jeffrey Rubin, president, Testrite Visual.
The company went to work making hand sanitizer stands for environments like museums, airports, and corporate offices. “We were able to customize these stands for whatever sanitizer dispensers customers were able to find, and when paired with our wide range of graphic frames, they provided a digital print opportunity,” he adds.
It developed a number of other innovative products, from touch-free door openers to low-cost, rolling, clear partitions that it continues to sell.
Roger Lepley, president, Consort Display Group, notes that during 2020 and 2021 the company was able to take advantage of its flatbed cutting and waterjet capabilities to manufacture COVID-19-related signs and shields. It also intensified marketing of its outdoor products.
With the return of live events, work, and school, McElroy says Displays2go quickly shifted to “beyond-COVID” solutions. “Our aim was to help our customers educate, engage, and entertain customers and perspective end users with an assortment of impactful signage. We worked to provide all manners of messaging mediums from hanging and retractable banners to touch and non-touch digital signage and multimedia kiosks that deliver dynamic imagery at a glance. It has become increasingly important as our customers navigate through a new normal with a heightened sense of responsibility that we build out our catalog of flexible and environmentally friendly options such as rental services and displays that utilize eco-friendly substrates.”
Expand Media continued to focus on its key, popular product lines, “because they sell,” offers David Nanamaker, national sales manager, Expand Media. He admits that keeping inventory amid the shipping and logistic issues worldwide has been a constant struggle. “To mitigate this, we’ve been using air freight from our factory to our offices on most key products. This has helped keep a stream of product available for our customers as they deal with the increased demand occurring since the reopening of venues in the U.S.”
Over the past two and a half years, it became apparent that the ability to shift focus and think beyond the original plan is essential. Luckily, display and framing systems are versatile.
“Display systems can be used anywhere,” says Nanamaker. “At home as a backdrop for web meetings, outside or inside of a sports venue or concert, at fairs and conventions, and all kinds of businesses. The potential is there for any place that branding/advertising has a need.”
McElroy agrees, noting that the potential uses of its display systems expand beyond trade show and retail into a variety of different settings, including art galleries and exhibits, colleges/universities, and hospitals and medical practices. “For example, our digital pedestal display case is ideal for art galleries to showcase detailed pieces while educating the visitor about its’ artist, medium, and history. Colleges and universities use our digital literature holders and charging kiosks for delivering real-time messaging to current and potential students on campus. Our design-online signage options offer easy messaging solutions for corporate settings, hospital family waiting areas, airports, and train stations.”
“We touch many different industries and try to leverage knowledge from all of them as we design new products and invest in tooling,” says Rubin. “We’ve seen an increase in entrepreneurs leveraging display components as part of their bespoke solutions. As a manufacturer, we’re positioned to help solve problems, leveraging 103 years of tooling and knowhow. Whether it’s a digital printer trying to rollout a unique large format display to 1,000 stores, or a small shape cut graphic needing a frame to accommodate, we have the capabilities to manufacture what’s needed,” he stresses.
Just before the lockdowns hit, Consort Display Group invested in roll-to-roll textile printing capabilities that enabled printing directly onto Sunbrella street banner fabrics to replace its labor-intensive screenprinting for these products. “Although we also print on heavy vinyl media for these banners, we know there is increasing demand for the rich, unique look of marine acrylic, which is also superior in strength and longevity, not only for vertical format street banners but for other outdoor applications, which may include durable graphics,” shares Lepley.
Whether it’s traditional frames gaining popularity in new locations, or new products that support safety efforts, framing and display systems providers offered relevant solutions throughout the pandemic.
“Of course, the demand for signage related to staying safe in both indoor and outdoor applications has been one of the most prevalent changes recently,” adds Lepley. “We’ve seen the outdoor graphic products of textiles and hardware that we market do well and are steadily increasing again.”
McElroy says its lightweight portable counters along with its ten- and 20-foot truss displays and backwalls with custom silicone edge graphics have been key business drivers.
“Clear partitions were our most popular display, followed by graphic holders to highlight hand sanitizer dispensing stations,” shares Rubin. He adds that Testrite’s range of free-standing displays offer options for communicating key safety messages, whether it’s an outdoor A frame, a drop-in pedestal frame, or a stretch fabric graphic frame.
“Outdoor displays have been increasingly common throughout the pandemic. Whereas there were many restrictions for indoor facilities, outdoor facilities did not have as strict guidelines and therefore were active throughout the pandemic,” comments Nanamaker. He says flags, outdoor retractable banner stands, and even outdoor fabric banners have been popular during the entire pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge to nearly every business and industry. Luckily, frames and displays are useful in many situations and essential in communicating important information to people throughout the past two-and-a-half years.
Mar2022, Digital Output