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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Large Format Printing: Battling Showrooming and Surprising Passersby

The online experience has its place. I surf the Internet daily, learning things and buying things. But I don’t believe it is the only venue for learning and commerce.

Beyond the blogs I’ve written about the value of custom printing for promotional pieces and publications, I’d like to address the value of print in marketing in-store commerce: still a viable option to online buying.

More specifically, there is a new phenomenon called “showrooming,” which has received a lot of buzz recently. Wikipedia defines showrooming in the following way:

“Showrooming is the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick and mortar retail store without purchasing it, but then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item.”

If you own, manage, or work in a retail establishment, showrooming may be the bane of your existence. People come into your shop, ask questions, test the merchandise, and then go elsewhere (in this case online) to buy. So you lose the sale.

It’s Not the Same Relationship

But online buying is not as personal as the in-store experience, and smart retailers are taking advantage of this fact.

I just read an article entitled “Sport Chek Flagship Continues Assault on Showrooming” (, 2/28/14). It concerns a Canadian retail sporting goods shop (Sport Chek) that incorporates digital signage, attentive service, and knowledgeable associates to provide “an energy-filled experience for anyone who is passionate about a great customer experience and shopping for an unparalleled array of sporting goods.”

Sport Chek is fighting back in the best way possible—by improving the in-store shopping experience. Sport Chek is “integrat[ing] digital signage and interactive technologies” (not to mention the finest experts in the field) to “provide detailed and personalized service to customers, ranging from bike and ski fittings to gait analysis for runners” (“Sport Chek Flagship Continues Assault on Showrooming”). More specifically, this involves 800 digital screens, 220 channels of athletics-related content, and 250 knowledgeable staff.

If you read the article closely, you will see that the in-store experience provides a particular level of assistance not available online. You just can’t get bike and ski fittings (not to mention gait analysis) online, since they involve a physical interaction with sports equipment. Even the most attentive online retailer can’t match this.

What Does This Have to Do with Commercial Printing?

You may ask how this pertains to custom printing, since this is a printing blog. Fair enough. As the Sport Chek franchise rolls out new versions of this personalized service to other retail outlets, there will be a need for large format printing as well as digital signage to promote and brand this in-store experience. Like TV and radio, both are necessary—not just digital and not just print. In fact, I’d expect that the Sport Chek rebranding process will require all manner of print catalogs and other marketing collateral, as well as large format print signage, to market the Sport Chek experience.

Moving Subway Signage

Another article caught my eye as well. Lily Hay Newman wrote a blog for Slate (“This High-Tech Shampoo Ad Makes Windblown Hair a Marvel,” 2/27/14), and she also included a short video of a novel backlit sign in a Stockholm, Sweeden, Metro station.

The signage showcases hair products by Apotek, under the tagline “Apolosophy.” If you watch the video, you see what appears to be large format, backlit image of a model with long hair. It looks like any other backlit signage. But as the subway approaches, the model in the poster blinks, and her hair starts to move in the breeze of the incoming subway train.

Ultrasonic sensors trigger the digital signage and provide a startling experience to passersby.

It’s an Homage to Large Format Print Signage

If you think about it, this digital signage works precisely because it’s so unexpected. And it is unexpected because it looks just like any other large format print signage—until the train arrives. Oddly enough, we have seen so much digital signage in recent years that it has often become “just part of the background.” We may no longer even see it, or at least we may glance at it and then move on. But digital signage that mimics print signage and then surprises us—that’s priceless. And it gives Apotek the buzz it desires.

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