Volume 15, Issue 1 - January-February 2011

feature


Wrap it Up!
Professionals Share Advice on Vehicle Wraps
by Katie Hodge

Part Two in a Two-Part Series
In any business or industry there are certain decisions that can make or break you. Researching trends, talking to experts and receiving adequate training make a huge decision significantly less risky.

The window film industry is no different. Shops are looking for ways to grow and expand and adding vehicle wrapping to a shop’s available services could bring in substantial income—as long as the addition is made carefully.

Shopping List
Knowing what equipment to add to a shop can be overwhelming for a new wrapper. Researching options and listening to the advice and expertise of a wrap veteran can prove valuable.

“I contribute my knowledge to looking online, reading trade magazines, following the industry, looking to see what material is new,” says Arthur Meeker, managing member of Xtreme Grafx in Albany, Ore.

The basic equipment needed to both design and install wraps include a laminator and a printer. Without these two vital pieces of equipment a wrap shop will be dependent on another company to print their product for them. In addition to these, a wrapper would also need access to a fairly powerful computer and software.

“The images we make are really big at full scale and the file is big. If your computer isn’t pretty stout you will be looking at the hour glass forever,” advises Dave Dorsey, the owner of Aurora Graphics in Wichita, Kan. “You will also need design software. Even if you are using art from a company like ours you will need design software to put it all together.”

New wrappers should educate themselves on the many software programs available.

“There are two basic types of software,” explains Dorsey. “The first is a bitmap editing software like Photoshop. The other is a vector-type software like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw.”

Shopping carefully and doing research can pay off for a new company. Unwelcome surprises, such as yearly updates, can become costly. Experts say these are not always disclosed when purchasing the software.

“For $1,100 you can get the best software that money can buy. Updates for Corel are $40 a year and updates to Photoshop are $199 a year,” says Dorsey. “They are cheaper to buy, cheaper to upgrade and they are ten times more powerful. If I catch a new guy getting in, that is what I tell him. The design software is the make-or-break of your efforts. At the end of the day people are going to judge your work by what it looks like and how well you installed it.”

The Price is Right
Learning the skills and obtaining the materials will get a new wrapper headed in the right direction, but learning to price wrap jobs appropriately can be a challenge.

Matt Richart, co-owner of Digital EFX in Louisville, Ky., and his co-owner Dallas Fowler developed custom pricing that will price a job depending upon the difficulty of the install, as well as the amount of materials used.

“A lot of people will charge flat rate fees for everything,” says Richart. “It takes longer to wrap a volkswagen Beetle, where there are no flat sides, than it does a box truck.”

Richart’s company has flat rate fees for materials, but their install price varies depending on how challenging of a wrap install it is.

“On the install side of it we would charge about [twice the amount] per square foot to install on a volkswagen Beetle,” says Richart. “Let’s say it’s a cleaning company and we wrapped their Beetle…and they came back with a box truck later we would charge them the same for materials, but must less for the cost of the install. The install price is almost half because it’s not as difficult to wrap a flat box truck.”

“There are three things you can get: price, quality and service,” adds Dorsey. “You can usually get any two of those three. You can have great quality and great service, but it’s not going to be cheap.”

Pricing can differ depending on location and competition and there are shops who offer flat rate fees for entire jobs.

Selling the Product
Once the equipment, training and pricing system is set in place then it’s the wrapper or owner’s job to go sell wraps. Using wraps as an advertising outlet for companies has become 90-percent of Richart’s work in Louisville.

“Every year more companies see the value of vehicle wrap and they are cutting out a lot of their yellow page ads, billboards, and television ads for vehicle wraps. I’m not saying that vehicle wrapping is as effective as a billboard or radio or TV advertisement, but the money that they spend on a vehicle wrap is more cost effective than any other type of advertising,” says Richart. “In Louisville, in our main newspaper on a Sunday morning an ad for one day would cost us $4,200. You could wrap an SUV, a large one, or a van or a box truck for that price and drive it for five years.”

Must Have’s
X Training, training, training

X 54-60-inch printer (solvent ink)

X Cold laminator (60-inch)

X Production tables

X Vinyl plotter (24, 36 or 54-inch wide)

X Strong computer

X Software
X Vector software
X Photoshop
X Vehicle template software

X Digital camera

X Vinyl

X Isopropyl alcohol, shop rags, blue tape, knives, rulers, tape measures, magnets, heat guns/blow torches/hair dryers, tool box

X Pricing System

X Mentor (technical tips, advice, material/equipment recommendations)

Explanation Warranted
Explaining to a potential customer the power of a permanent means of advertising during tough economic times can be powerful.

“Vehicle wrapping is the only form of advertising that you have something tangible in the end. When a customer or client wraps their vehicle they either eventually remove the wrap and rewrap it with a new message or they remove the wrap and sell their vehicle. So they end up with something tangible either way,” explains Richart. “With wraps you are basically taking a billboard and wrapping it around your car and driving it to people.”

The opportunity for vehicle wrap companies is there and as long as the job is done well a new business has the conditions to develop.

“I think it’s still on a growth curve because a lot of municipalities have cracked down and limited small business from being able to put signs up and stuff so the best way to market is a vehicle wrap,” says Meeker. “You pay for it one time and it will work for you 24/7. You can’t go down to your local shopping center and put your sign out in front of the building and walk away but you can park you car and everyone will see it coming and going.”

After hours of training, purchasing of new equipment and loads of practice all that is left is to jump into wrapping and start completing jobs. However, remember that there are people out there to help if wrapping begins to feel overwhelming. Pick someone in the industry and use them as a mentor. Call them with technical questions or for advice on materials and equipment.



WINDOW FILM
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