Have you ever wondered how retail stores can rebrand their premises overnight. Well, apart from some extremely hard work by all involved, there is some clever technology and advanced installation processes now available.
Of major consideration is careful planning, design, printing, installation and selecting the right materials for each job. Reviving a store or location isn’t just a case of putting up new graphics, but a much more complex exercise that includes changing the look of architectural features and equipment such as counters, columns, walls, dispensing and display units. Before new materials and digital technology came to the fore, reviving a store required manufacturing and installing new units – and all the conventional building practices that go with it. Expensive fixtures had to be replaced with new as it was often impossible to rebrand or revive these surfaces satisfactorily. New materials and processes however now allow for tired-looking units to be re-clad or covered to enable changing the overall look of the store as well as adding improved functionality. There are of course instances where fixtures are just too old or damaged to be recycled and need to be disposed of.
The material and printing process used for the rebranding or refurbishment process is crucial to the success of the operation. Vinyl materials tend not to be used due to their poor environmental credentials and inadequate durability performance for this application. Instead, a specially engineered polyester film is used. This material is very strong and versatile and can be subsurface printed with any design using the latest digital technology. The effects can be stunning and, to the untrained eye, it’s virtually impossible to detect that an old counter, for example, has just been recycled using this process.
Most people perceive printing to be a surface operation but clever undersurface printing of this engineered clear film (a process in the trade called ‘subsurface printing’) and by using today’s industrial UV curing digital presses such as those from Fuji Film Sericol, Océ, VUTEk and HP, the image is automatically protected by the film’s outer finely textured, hard-coated surface. Once this film has been subsurface printed with the newly acquired brand or image, it’s ready to be applied to the old unit surface using a suitable adhesive system. The result is a quick and effectiverevival ofthe old unit with a high level of protection and cosmetic appeal.
Modern film substrates used for this process (such as the SIGMAGraF UVJet series from MacDermid Autotype) go beyond surface hardcoating and texturisation and can be customised for large volume supplies. For example, they can incorporate antimicrobial properties, which are highly desirable in hygiene critical areas, or a special surface that (using metallised screen print inks) emulates brushed stainless steel so perfectly that it’s only when a surface is touched, it becomes discernible that the material is plastic (due to the different temperature sensation).
There are other advantages too related to these materials. Their graffiti-resistant outer surface is easily wiped clean time and time again with just detergent or, when the stain requires it, with aggressive cleaning solutions without in any way affecting the film or graphic image. No specialist knowledge is needed to clean them either, so normal in-store staff can be engaged. In a counter-intuitive but true way, materials normally thought of as tougher can even be less resistant to wear and tear than some of these specialist products, so specifiers have nothing to fear about durability. Indeed, robustness is so great to go often way beyond the specific length of the campaign in question
However, inherent features such as ease of application and durability aren’t enough for large international multiples – cosmetics are paramount and this is also another area where these products excel. The process of subsurface printing on these specially engineered polyester films not only protects the image from wear and tear, but doesn’t affect in any way colour reproducibility, which means that with expert printing, pantone accuracy can be achieved. An added bonus is that in many instances, thanks to intelligent surface texturisation, light reflection can be avoided which makes the message even more striking.
Over the last few years, many multiples in Europe have either rebranded or simply refreshed their image by adopting this film process technique. This cost-effective solution, if expertly designed and installed, can even strengthen a store’s profile.
Global specialised film manufacturers such as MacDermid Autotype have supplied these products for a variety of applications as Laura Bullmore, Industrial Display specialist explains, “In Germany one of our business partners refurbishes commercial equipment. Due to their high degree of skill and using the correct materials, the refurbishment can be done overnight in a matter of hours with the same unit appearing to be brand new the next day. The whole unit takes a completely different look, having been brought back to life within a short amount of time.” She continues, “In instances of store promotions, or store-within-a-store, this solution comes into its own as areas can be customised quickly, easily and above all, economically and with minimal effort, often overnight during restocking hours.”
Despite the high price of oil which has affected all plastic products, these materials remain highly affordable. Indeed, material costs and printing output represent the smallest percentage of overall costs, with the highest proportion normally being the manpower needed to carry out this kind of rapid installation, often at unsociable hours overnight or at weekends. However, this is something all major stores are accustomed to and to execute a major rebranding operation using conventional methods could cost much more, with extended store closures and revenue losses.
In today’s complex economic environment every minute is precious, and so having access to a solution that can revive and revitalise a store in a matter of hours, and at modest cost, is a huge bonus. Furthermore, re-utilising expensive fixtures such as counters and equipment means that great savings can also be made in environmental terms, as perfectly sound items don’t need to be thrown away but can simply be recycled with a new look that has been achieved thanks to a thin, tough and otherwise invisible film