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Challenges and Solutions for Retail Graphic Installations

Retail graphic installations cover a wide variety of printing and application processes and methods and can be great for your business.

By Ray Weiss

Retail graphic installations also present some unique challenges.

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  • Off-Hours Installation
    Installing retail graphics typically means working when the store is closed, i.e., outside normal business hours, and that brings with it a host of considerations.

    Staffing. With the odd hours, you'll need to address staffing. Working late into the evening can mean losing overall productivity, because the installer on a nighttime job will not be available to work during normal business hours the following day. Take this into consideration and factor in the downtime when you estimate a job.

    Lights. You should also remember that some retail establishments have lights that automatically dim or shut off a few hours after closing. Talk about this with the store owner or manager. If the automatic lights can't be changed, have a plan for your own lighting that will enable you to move throughout the store as you are installing graphics.

    Security. Make sure the client has contacted their alarm or security company with your company name and the names of any installers. The last thing you need is for an alarm to be triggered and your installers pulled off the job.

    Client Communications. Another challenge when working after hours is connecting with the client if questions arise. Larger brand companies, when working with installers on the rollout of a new promotion or product that requires significant changes in store graphics, will usually require someone on their team to be available by phone to answer any installation questions. Clear that up before you start.

    Installation Challenges
    Corners. Review the comps or proofs to see where there might be issues that would concern you with the installation, such as graphics that wrap around the corner of a wall or bridge across an inside corner. The likelihood of the walls being plumb, or square, is low, so reviewing the proofs and installation instructions before you get on-site will be critical. For large installation jobs - complete changeover of graphics or new construction - using a cast vinyl will help tremendously. With care to avoid over-stretching, the graphic can manage the out-of-plumb wall without trouble.

    Another challenge when installing is fixtures/products/shelves that are in the way and can't be easily moved. Whenever possible, getting involved early in the planning process will help you to be more of a consultant and advisor as well as the installer.

    Vinyl choice. Calendared vinyl has its place in retail graphics, particularly when the installation is a flat wall and there's no need to go around or inside a corner. A factor to consider with calendared vinyl is the plethora of adhesive options - from removable to permanent - that can be deployed depending on the expected use of the graphic. For instance, barricade walls, which hide a construction area inside a mall, airport etc., will typically only be up temporarily, and are usually a f lat-wall application. A calendared vinyl with a permanent adhesive (to keep prying hands from peeling back the graphic) works well for this installation.

    In my experience, a matte or satin overlaminate is the best idea for these installations. For a graphic to hold up well to traffic, scuffing, etc., having some laminate (either liquid or film) is a smart idea. When I worked closely with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., every single piece they put up was laminated - even on interior walls - because they had learned the hard way that people love to pick at the walls.

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    Paint. Installing onto painted walls usually requires sanding and repainting, so typically these graphics are vinyl that is designed to be more durable and stay up longer. Avoid an egg-shell paint finish, because it makes adhesion of the vinyl more of a challenge.

    Ron Gizzo, Chief Operating Officer, Visual Marking Systems (VMS), a nationwide installation company, shared a recent challenging project. VMS was working with a big client on a new store opening. This was new construction, and VMS was contracted to install 4,500 square feet of wall graphics - 10 feet off the ground, 19 feet high and approximately 240 feet wide - a large number of graphic panels to install on the freshly-painted walls. Ron worked through all the details. He coordinated the vinyl selection with the vinyl manufacturer to make he had the correct adhesive; he worked with the painter to select the paint, ensuring there would be enough time for the paint to completely dry and cure (typically 30 days). Having previously worked through similar projects, Ron made sure to cross all the t's and dot all the i's.

    On the scheduled installation day, lifts were in place for the installers, small test patches of vinyl had been placed in a few locations to make sure the paint had cured, and it was time to hang the panels. Ron proceeded to use his 3M adhesion test kit, which serves as another check for the adhesion capabilities when preparing for an installation. About seven panels into the install, some of the vinyl began to exhibit signs of outgassing from the painted surface. When the installers checked it, the vinyl pulled away large sections of paint from the drywall.

    Upon investigation, Ron discovered that, despite the paint being up for the manufacturer-recommended 30 days, the temperature in the building had not been regulated, and as a result, the paint was unable to fully dry and cure. Not only that, he discovered that the painter had been upsold on a different paint - without notifying Ron - that needed additional time to cure.

    After re-sanding and repainting the wall with the proper paint - and allowing it to fully cure at the appropriate temperature - the installation is now on track with a much higher chance of success.

    Ray Weiss, Director of Digital Print Programs for SGIA, joined the association in 2014. He provides solutions and technical information on digital printing as well as digital equipment, materials and vendor referrals. He oversees several workshops at SGIA along with the association's digital equipment evaluation program. Ray is the Project Manager for both the PDAA Certification program and SGIA's Digital Color Professional certification program and is an instructor for the Color Management Boot Camps. Ray is a regular contributor to the association's Journal and won the 2016 Swormstedt Award for Best in Class writing in the Digital Printing category. His 25+ year career in the graphics industry has spanned owning his own prepress and offset business to digital wide-format sales, training, support and service. Ray has extensive experience in color management and worked closely with the Smithsonian Institution to implement a color managed workflow in their Exhibits department. This article appeared in the SGIA Journal, May / June 2018 Issue and is reprinted with permission. Copyright 2018 Specialty Graphic Imaging Association ( All Rights Reserved.

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