By Melissa Donovan
Part 2 of 2
In the first part of this series on print service providers (PSPs) creating signage for retail, Specialty Graphic Solutions LLC of Vancouver, WA shared its experiences. The company works with one wide format printer that enables it to print to a variety of substrates at high quality—which is ideal for customers in the retail space.
Here we focus on a print shop part of a larger operation that handles retail and promotional orders with an arsenal of wide format digital printers from multiple vendors. It’s positioned to serve customers with the latest trends in retail applications from textured wall graphics to magnetic-receptive signage.
Derived from a blueprint company serving the construction industry 69 years ago, Sharpe Retail is one half of the Sharpe brothers’ business, Sharpe Images. Zach Sharpe’s grandfather, Bud Sharpe, began the blueprint company. 40 years in, Greg Sharpe, Zach’s dad, expanded the business into film processing and eventually wide format.
Keeping the blueprint side active and recognizing the phenomenal growth in wide format, the business was split into two separate entities about 20 years ago, with Zach Sharpe managing the wide format or color side, Sharpe Retail and his brother—Zane—manages Sharpe Images, with a focus on the construction industry.
Today, Sharpe Retail creates everything from business cards to billboards thanks to its digital capabilities. It works with printers from both EFI and HP, Inc. and also houses an automated finishing devices from Advanced Greig Laminators, Inc. and Esko. 35 of 75 employees are based primarily out of Winston-Salem, NC, although there are seven locations throughout NC.
A space of about 15,000 square feet houses most of the wide format digital color hardware, with the commercial printing and small format digital in a 6,500 square foot building across the street. As of press time, there are plans for these facilities to be combined into a 37,000 square foot space in February 2017, merging all of the small and large format color work under one roof.
In the Business of Promotion
The majority of Sharpe Retail’s business revolves around short-term promotional graphics. High-profile customers include Hanesbrands, Nautica, Riders, and Wrangler, to name a few, in addition to work done for grocery stores, professional sporting events, and gas station chains.
Print and install is offered to all clients and many times—for example with promotional graphics used during events—part of Sharpe Retail’s contract requires maintaining the graphics for the entire duration of the event. This means being on site at the location and either changing up graphics as sponsors flip each day or simply watching to make sure no media failures occur.
Media varies depending on the job request, but favored products include styrene, UltraBoard, vinyl banner from Ultraflex Systems, Inc., Coroplast, and media from 3M Commercial Solutions.
Recently, Zach Sharpe has noticed a large trend in his customers requesting “green” media. He and his staff are constantly looking into products where pricing is compatible with what they are currently using. Although it has been a struggle to meet the price, quality, and green demands in the past, he recognizes it has gotten better.
Other popular trends in promotional graphics include textured wall graphics, floor graphics, and magnetic-receptive media. In other words, applications placed in unique places were that space wasn’t traditionally used before to market something, according to Sharpe.
Magnetic-receptive products in particular are highly requested. “A lot of the companies we work with have medium-term graphics. They are looking for a low-cost, easy way to install and magnets offer that,” explains Sharpe.
Recently, Sharpe Retail did work for jeans retailer, Wrangler. The company wanted the first floor hallway of its corporate headquarters to provide a visual timeline of its history. Graphics and other props—like jeans and framed images—were created with change out in mind. Sharpe says Wrangler wanted the walls to evolve with the company, allowing for items to be interchanged to keep the display fresh and up to date.
The PSP created a number of applications, from wallcoverings to rigid board-based signage. This was all printed on its EFI VUTEk GS3250LX Pro and then finished using an Esko Kongsberg XN cutting table. These were ideal for this specific project because of the quality and speed required to meet the client’s expectations.
From the time the job was submitted to Sharpe Retail to when it was installed, the total turnaround was five business days. Sharpe says Wrangler was incredibly pleased with the job. “Zach and his team did an awesome job putting this project together. They recommended ideas and materials. Wrangler management was amazed at the finished product,” shares Kimmy Davis, representative, VF Jeanswear.
Ready to Grow
With plans to expand into a larger location in the next year, Sharpe Retail is poised to grow its business even further. It will do this thanks to its diligence in being aware of the next hot applications in retail, whether it be working with eco-friendly media or creating textured wall graphics and magnetic-receptive signage for its customers.
Nov2016, Digital Output DOST1611