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The distributor, the wrapper and the cowboy – a new experience

The industry that has become printed vehicle wraps, and that is now morphing into vehicle colour change wraps, is approaching a crisis point not of its own making. The culprits I suspect are some marketing boffins putting profit ahead of common sense, professionalism and industry standards.

The vehicle wrap industry is littered with poor applicators; get rich quicker schemers and shops that want to make an easy buck at the expense of the unsuspecting client.
They care little about the long-term viability of the industry because frankly, they don’t plan on staying in it that long. In the next year or so there will be better money made in something else, and these operators today will be those that abandon ship for something else that promises bigger money, and an easier lifestyle.
The other day I was contacted by a potential customer who wanted a price to wrap his vehicle. He wanted us to reproduce artwork that had been designed by a graphic design company. Nothing wrong with that, we do it all the time. If the artwork was good; the job should look fine.
As usual, I explained that due to the unique requirements of the vehicles shape, we’d need to use a highly conformable material which, although more expensive, was his only real option. Not all  materials were designed for this type of work. There were only two on the market that would really do the job, and I only used the 3M version as it was, in my humble opinion, the best there was.
He was really pleased that I wasn’t going to use ‘junk’ as he wanted a good job done.
We had a brief discussion on the problems that we’d expect to encounter, but I assured him, 3M produced a material that was well up to the task. I gave him my estimate and he told me he had to discuss it with the wife.
Next day, he informs me that he’s had a cheaper quote but the sign shop doesn’t have the ability to wrap the vehicle and wondered if I’d just charge for the fitting. I originally said no. I didn’t know the material, and I had no control over how it was produced. He rang back several times frustrated that no other shops would fit someone else’s work. A few shops he rang suggested me, as I do contract fitting, so I got to the stage I said yes just to get him off my case. He assured me it was 3M wrap material and that it was laminated as I’d quoted. He also said the shop that printed it offered a 4 year warranty on the film.
The day came to do the wrap, the client turned up with the printed film and a layout. I couldn’t believe it. I was looking at a 3M monomeric film, the cheapest film 3M probably make, designed for short-term flat signage at best. I told him it was not wrap material, and it wouldn’t work on his vehicle. He starting implying I was making excuses.
I suggested he ring the printer and get them to put in writing that it was wrap film, and that they were prepared to honour the verbal warranty they gave him of 4 years. He rang and they declined. Surprise surprise.
So now this guy thinks we are all untrustworthy. Somehow it’s my fault because I couldn’t get it to work on his vehicle, and believe me I tried. I don’t like being beaten but on this job, I was tested to the max. To make matters worse, the shop mis-measured the vehicle on all 4 sides. It looked terrible.
But that is what the professional shop is facing in the market these days. Gone are the days when product knowledge and professionalism is of a priority. It is becoming all about short-term gain in terms of making a job as profitable as they can, without having to buy the more expensive materials more suited for the job. The only way that works is to use a cheap material and charge a premium price.
But, while the professional long-term sign shops try to compete with these ‘cowboys’ and try to offer well priced packages to the more discerning clients, they now have another threat.
A major distributor has decided in their wisdom to open the vehicle colour change wrap material to the DIY market.
So on the one hand they insist that those of us who care have accreditation and training on a regular basis, and then on the other hand they give exactly the same product to the consumer to wrap their own vehicles without any knowledge or understanding of the difficulties involved. How does that work? I don’t think it does.
Firstly, if a prospective client sees a colour changed vehicle with bubbles, splits, poor cut lines in the street, do you think they are going to know or care that it was a DIYer and not a professional install? No. They will think it is a bad idea because they have seen failures. The professional wrapper has just had his job and industry effectively hijacked for the sake of profits by some multinational.
Secondly, the multinational makes the material available to the DIYer through popular retailers to saturate the market. This cheapens the product so that when a professional wrapper quotes a price, the first impression is that they are paying a priority for a product that is available at the local auto accessories store. How hard can it be if it is actually a DIY product?
Thirdly, and this is the killer. Every day they give the inferior products in the market a free kick.
Recently a nationwide distributor for these colour change materials started doing demonstrations at automotive shows. Great demonstrations and I’m sure there is lots of interest generated. But, how many guys do you think went to the show, watched with interest, then went home and looked for the product on eBay. I’m guessing plenty. The Chinese film manufacturers must be loving it.
So, not only is that area of the industry struggling in a slow economy, but a company that should be supporting the industry in the interests of offering professional outcomes has decided to undermine the same industry they service, by lowering the value of the very service offered by professional wrappers.
From my perspective as a vehicle wrap supplier and fitter, I’m more likely to distance myself from the brands that are available for the DIY markets, and support those brands that aren’t associated with the failures that are going to become apparent over time.

 

Shane Drew
www.vehiclewrap.com.au

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