A couple of our team took a day out to explore the latest innovations in the sign industry and to get some inspiration for projects from the Sign & Digital UK show.  As first time visitors to this well-established industry event we didn’t know what to expect but the tagline for this year; ‘Creativity brought to life’ did not disappoint.


Amongst the hundreds of exhibitors, which covered all aspects of signage from digital print, letters and POS display systems, there were a number that caught our eye. There were various suppliers with the latest LED technologies on display and it was useful to see the options available to specify for building letters.  Other highlights were:

  • A range of realistic textured vinyl film that replicated materials which would otherwise be too challenging to use in signage
  • Ultima Displays' impressive stand showing how much could be achieved with simple aluminium extrusion light boxes and fabric graphics
  • 3D printing in action, demonstrating a technology which will become more and more commonplace amongst signage and POS applications


There were also a number of printers with their latest machines on display, the majority were wide format as well as a number of flatbed. Seeing the latest machines in action and what is possible in terms of quality and speed of printing on vinyl, fabric or direct to substrate increased our expectations from suppliers.



As well as the exhibition, the show had a full programme of demonstrations and a number of talks, the highlight of which was an interview with Mary Portas “Queen of shops”.  Mary delivered an insightful critique of the High Street and her opinions were refreshingly honest. When talking about the recent brands going out of business, she stood by her opinion that it wasn’t that consumers aren’t spending money, but they are choosing more wisely where to spend it.  If retailers do not offer a genuine experience to their target market, they will struggle.


Whilst the retail landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, with internet shopping and increased knowledge of consumers, Mary did not see this as the end of bricks and mortar - rather, it is simply a challenge for retailers to deliver what customers want.  She stated the likes of Amazon and other pure-players moving from online into bricks and mortar as proof of this. What they do is offer a unique difference which enhances the experience in store. She gave an example of a sports trainers shop in Australia which holds no stock but after viewing models on the shelf you can personalise and build your trainer with a staff member for delivery straight to your door.  Key to success was authenticity and emotional engagement with customers.

Another key theme for retail in coming years is sustainability - not just as an aside, but throughout business.  The example of Patagonia and their “Don’t buy this jacket” marketing campaign is an old one, but with an increased awareness of environmental damage, this is something all retailers will need to tackle.  This is one area that is difficult with signage and not very well covered by the show as a whole. A lot of the materials used in signage are still not environmentally friendly and often very difficult to recycle.  It would be good to see an increased number of options in this area for specifying in projects.


Overall the show gave us plenty of ideas and products to look into for further projects, and time away thinking about the bigger picture. It was an insightful and inspiring experience and great to understand what others are up to within the sign industry.


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