The State Of The Signage Industry In 2021: Suppliers’ Perspective

The State Of The Signage Industry In 2021

Sign Africa hosted a webinar on 15 April where signage and printing industry suppliers gave their views on industry trends, supplier issues and more.

Part of this webinar included results from surveys sent out to readers asking them what they expect from suppliers and what their biggest pain points concerning supply are. The webinar was proudly sponsored by: Falcon, Fujifilm, Midcomp and Roland.


– Devandran Naicker, Falcon.
– Rob Makinson, Midcomp.
– Grant Potgieter, Fujifilm.
– Bob Glenister, Roland.

Which industry sectors have experienced an increase in demand over the last year?

Naicker said in terms of signage, the biggest demand was Covid-related products required to cater for social distancing and other protective measures. He also said that direct mail and marketing would gain traction post-Covid to create stronger brand awareness.

Potgieter added that globally there has been a downward trend in litho and an uptake of commercial digital/inkjet, which is replacing the former, with costs and the fact that companies are no longer seeing tremendous long runs as reasons for this. He said there is great growth in packaging and labels and that it is an exciting space to be in. ‘There is growth in wide format – most of that would be in the flatbed space, and this is a sign of our customers diversifying their businesses,’ he said. This is also complemented by cutting solutions.

‘PPE drove a fair amount of growth last year,’ said Makinson. ‘The irony is that we had a better financial year during Covid than we had the year before. It seems the elections are worse for us as a business than a pandemic, because the elections in 2019 threw the market into complete disarray.’ He added that Midcomp’s customers are getting back to pre-Covid levels and also said ink sales are the company’s main measure of activity in the market.

What are the key industry trends for 2021?

Makinson said sustainability is a trend and is particularly big in Europe, namely with ink, media and technology. A buzzword in Europe from HP and other sources is ‘usership’, in that usership is the new ownership because of the shift in buying patterns – using without owning – much like using a car without owning it. Midcomp is shifting towards that trend, and will see how it takes shape within the next 2-3 years. He also mentioned contractual trends, using Midcomp’s Pay Per Use system – where users only pay for the square metres they print – as an example.

Naicker mentioned that an increase in raw material prices for substrates would require the industry to diversify to maintain quality and also manage costs accordingly. He said there are four questions businesses should consider: What is it that we need to start doing? What is it that we need to stop doing? What is it that we need to suspend during this time? What is it that we want to sustain during this period?

Glenister said there has been growth in sublimation due to the demand for face masks. He advises businesses to stop focusing on things that waste time and money and to mostly focus on customers. He added that we may see some new and innovative technologies in 2022.

Are there still concerns over China’s supply chain and the international supply chain in general?

Potgieter said ‘We are not easily affected by China’s supply chain as we have factories all over the world.’ However, from a travel perspective, the company has been affected in terms of technical support and equipment installations, as getting technicians to travel has been, and continues to be, a big challenge.

‘The China dilemma is not just affecting the printing and signage industry. Globally, all supply chains have been constrained,’ said Naicker. ‘Covid has affected the supply of products globally due to the enforced lockdowns by governments, preventing the free movement of goods, which has resulted in shipping line delays, thus increasing the lead-time of products sourced.’

Makinson said Midcomp has been very much affected, not so much from China, but from an international point of view, even with the use of reputable courier companies. Areas that have been affected include spare parts, machines and shipping, and airline cargo space is also a problem. ‘All in all, it has been a big challenge,’ he said.

Glenister said the constraints are real, and that it has taken time to create new models. However, his company’s systems have adjusted to new time flows, stock holdings are higher than before and constraints are expected to fall off. He also mentioned that in terms of supplier communication, all stakeholders need to take responsibility and that we all need to adjust. He said transparency needs to exist across the whole supply chain.

What is your advice for print and signage business owners to seize business opportunities?

Glenister believes that the pandemic has not created a big change and said that one must continue to focus on what is best for one’s business, namely value and diversity with less focus on price. ‘Customers that have grown are the ones that have broadened their market and have been innovative with products,’ he said, adding that ‘Covid has forced businesses to focus on what is critical to their businesses, and what isn’t’.

Potgieter said businesses need to be aware of cost containment and changing how they do business. He also added that owners should continue to invest in their businesses, regardless of how tough the situation is currently, and also added that companies must find ways to add value and understand customers and their strategies.

Naicker said Covid has influenced customers to try new things, which has helped create opportunities. ‘Suspend anything that is wasteful and adhere to your company’s core values. Covid not only outlined our businesses’ flaws, but how to fix them.’

‘Think outside the box,’ said Makinson, ‘If you can knit a jersey, you can knit a scarf,’ meaning that you should stick to your core business values, but also try different things. He illustrated how customers have innovated by using a digital cutter to make face shields, as an example.

How has Covid-19 affected the market and how have your customers adapted?

Potgieter said that some customers were really hamstrung, having to reshuffle and free up cashflow – and this applied to suppliers too. On the plus side, however, he said, ‘As South Africans, we are such a strong-willed nation and we’ve learnt to be industrious. We learnt to be creative and innovative – we’ve had to – we’re a survivalist nation. There have been impacts, but I like to think we are seeing the backend of those impacts now.’

‘I’m bewildered at how well our customers have come through this pandemic,’ added Potgieter. ‘Businesses that have invested in technology prior to this pandemic are the ones that have flourished.’

Naicker said that no industry was left immune in the aftermath of Covid, except perhaps the telecommunication and pharmaceutical industries, and that small businesses were particularly affected. His company had to find better solutions and models for its customers, which highlights the need for businesses to adapt. He also believes that customers were affected by just-in-time expectations and touched on how Covid has forced businesses to rethink and manage this dynamic.

Makinson said that the challenge for suppliers, and a source of huge frustration, is the banks’ general risk aversion to lend money for capital equipment purchases. Rental companies also rely on the same banks for their funding, so until such time as the banks ease up on their lending criteria, some customers will find it difficult to get finance.

About our Sponsors

Falcon Signage Supplies prides itself as a partner to many within the signage and printing industry in the SADC region by ensuring it continues to provide quality products and innovative solutions. Falcon has emerged as a leading sign manufacturer and materials supplier in the region, continually improving its product range and is renowned for bringing new products to its ever growing base of customers. Not only does Falcon supply materials into the industry to manufacture quality signage, it also supports the majority of its customers by servicing and repairing their wide format digital printers, as well as offering conversions for bulk Nutec ink systems, a far more cost effective solution.

Fujifilm South Africa is a stable, long-term partner focused on delivering high quality, technically advanced print solutions to help printers and converters develop a competitive advantage and grow their businesses. In order to provide sustainable practices on the African continent, Fujifilm is pushing towards greener solutions. This is reflected in their GREENGUARD certified UV Inkjet inks and UV LED technologies in wide format and packaging solutions. Furthermore, Fujifilm’s range of Superia CTP Offset Plates focuses on reducing chemical usage as well as resource savings, including lower energy and water consumption for commercial, newspaper and packaging printers.

Over the past 30 years, Midcomp has strived to offer not only the best digital printing equipment and finishing equipment, from brands such as Hewlett Packard, Gerber, Zünd, Kala, Barbieri, Fotaba, Direct Color Systems, Océ, PLASTGrommet, GMG, Polygon, Caldera and Onyx, but also to offer the best service and backup support possible. They are not only an equipment supplier, they are experts in their field and their extensive service offering and support is testimony to the high levels of expertise within the organisation. They like to nurture their customers’ successes, creating a partnership of co-operation, willingness and empathy, one of mutual trust and development.

Roland DG is the leading supplier of solutions to the graphics arts, design and technology industries. Their products are manufactured using industry leading techniques and standards while minimising environmental impact. The Roland DG Care programme encompasses a complete range of premium services, which creates peace of mind for the customer to allow their imagination to soar. They are a bunch of people who get excited about teaching digital techniques to others. They eat, dream and sleep digital production solutions. They are constantly dreaming up new and exciting ways for you to become proficient and self reliant with digital machinery.

Sign Africa
+27 11 568 1894