360 Wraps Owner Tommy Strader Predicts Booming Wrap Market

He says latex-ink printing has "changed the game"

Last month (see page 50), we published interviews with electric-sign-company representatives as to what’s trending for them. This month, we present the same concept, except that we’ve spoken with commercial (non-electric) sign-company people. Here, 360 Wraps (Dallas) owner Tommy Strader provides insights into his market.
What applications for digital printing are currently trending as the most popular?
Because we specialize in vehicle wraps, I’d say wrapping vehicles is the most popular application for digital prints. However, we’ve seen rising popularity in the interior-decoration market; few options exist beyond wallpaper. People are now learning about the availability and versatility of digitally printed wall-wrap materials.
What developments in ink formulations are having the most impact for your business?
We’ve been in business for 5 1/2 years, and I designed for seven years prior to that. I’d say that the latex printer has completely changed the game. We switched to the HP latex printers almost a year ago, and I couldn’t believe the difference. The main difference is the film isn’t attached by the chemicals, as with solvent machines, so installing a latex print feels like installing white film. The machine is odorless, and the ability to pull a print and go directly to the laminator has allowed us to turn jobs around much more quickly, and it’s saved us time. I believe latex is digital printing’s future, especially with environmentally conscious companies like we ours, and our customers are as well.
To what extent are “green” considerations impacting your business?
The latex printer has been a big step in directing us to be as green as possible. It’s hard to go completely green, when dealing with a product primarily made from petroleum (vinyl films), so when considering suppliers and manufacturers, we definitely take the eco approach as much as we can. Some printable substrates are now biodegradable. I believe all major manufacturers will try to be more eco-friendly in the future. We worked with Avery Graphics to start a recycling program. We send the plastic ends from rolls back to Avery for reuse; they recycle a product that normally ends up in a landfill. We also work with HP; they provide shipping labels, so we can send back our disposable printing heads, and used ink and cleaning cartridges.
What materials developments are the most important to your business?
Advancements in the films we print on and apply to vehicles have come a long way, just in the last five years. They’re now much easier to install, and we can better hold them in place when contouring them to the vehicles’ angles and curves. Secondly, specialty films are changing the game. Films such as the matte-black, brushed-metal looks and carbon fiber have expanded the wrap market from a largely, commercial- only business to a custom-vehicle after-market.
Customization of high-end vehicles is a huge market because people who buy a red Ferrari, but want it to be matte black, will pay a premium to wrap it. It protects the paint, which protects their investment, and they now have a unique vehicle. A wrap upholds the vehicle’s value without ruining its integrity by adding a non-factory paint job.
How much does a Presidential election year boost your sales?
With vehicle wraps, we don’t see a huge boost in our business during election years. However, we’ve seen local politicians wrap their vehicles to help their election campaign.
How important is vehicle wrapping for your business, compared to a couple years ago?
The wrap market is growing by leaps and bounds every year. If you’re not in the wrap business now, you should definitely look into it for future offerings. The wrap business is unique. If you create a really nice sign for a customer and install it well, the customer usually won’t tell others. However, if you provide a great wrap job – design, print and installation – you will most definitely get referrals from both people they know and strangers. Number one is customer service.
A client won’t send people your way with a great wrap, but lousy service. Be nice to earn business; it’s that simple.
How has the availability of credit impacted any desired capital investments?
We have self-funded most of our capital investments thus far, so I can’t answer that too well.