2016 State of the Wraps Industry

Revealing research offers perspective on the growing wraps market.

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Everyone knows that the wraps industry has grown tremendously over the years, and all indications are that it will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. That’s very good news for those shops that design, print and install wraps.

Our report follows one we published in last year’s issue of WRAPS by Ryan Fugler, which focused on types of projects done, challenges facing shops, wraps resources and wraps trends. This year we increased the number of questions we asked of wrap shop owners, and greatly expanded the number of wrap shops surveyed so we could gain a more comprehensive perspective.

The Shops
Participating shops range in size, and in how exclusively they focus their operations on wraps. The number of shops focusing exclusively on wraps (6.6%) is relatively small, while a majority of shops (57%) report that 25 to 50 percent of their revenue comes from wraps.

  • Personnel and WagesMost shops say they have only one full-time installer (43%) while 17 percent employ two, and 14 percent employ three to five installers. Most non-certified installers are being paid $12-$15 or $16-$18 per hour while certified installers earn slightly more.
  • OutlookBy and large, shops report a very positive business outlook, with more than 73 percent reporting significant increases in sales over last year; and 60 percent say they expect sales from wraps to increase in the next year for both full and partial wraps.
  • Challenges-Respondents say that the biggest challenges facing wrap shops are in the areas of pricing, encroaching competition and an inability to find skilled/experienced installers. One shop owner summed it up this way: “The biggest challenge is fly-by-night competitors that undercut and destroy the area pricing, and then they go out of business-leaving pricing expectations dirt cheap.”
  • Ordering Habits– Most shops (59%) say they order wrap film more than 10 times a year, but busier shops say they order multiple times a week. Nearly 25 percent of shops say they are likely to try a new wrap media immediately, but more shops (27%) say they like to wait until the media has been on the market for a year. About 63 percent of shops say they often take advantage of free trial rolls offered by manufacturers. Many shops (about 30%) say they order 25 percent of their supplies online while 19 percent say they never order online.
  • Dealer Preferences– When buying media from suppliers, shops say they most value suppliers that offer competitive pricing (70%), in-stock availability (60%) and good customer service (53%). About 35 percent of shops value supplier location, reasonable shipping costs, freshness of stock and supplier loyalty.

Revenues from Wraps
When it comes to revenues from wraps, most shops say that the lions share comes from full graphics and partial wrap jobs, with non-vehicle wrap work for commercial businesses and custom graphics following closely behind; and about a third say this work generated more than $50,000 or more from these jobs last year. Fleet work, motorcycles, marine, busses and trailers, racing and street art making up the bulk of the rest.

Business is good, with more than 63 percent of shops saying they revenues from wraps increased over last year between 10 percent and 30 percent. And of the 60 percent of shops who expect sales to increase over the coming year, most agree that increases will come from full and partial coverage wraps, as well as from cut vinyl applications.

Work Done
Although we did not ask for a total number of jobs turned around in our survey, we thought it would be helpful to learn the volumes done for various categories in 2015.

  • Volumes of Jobs-Job volume numbers seemed to be grouped in either 1-10 or “more than 25” with relatively few in between in most categories. The highest volume of jobs (more than 25) was centered around work for commercial businesses, custom graphics and fleet work. Shops reporting 0-5 jobs were mainly concentrated in the areas of pro racing, street art, busses & trailers, personal use, motorcycles and marine.
  • Quote-to-Finish TimesTurnaround times, from job quote to finish, averaged about 6-10 days, with the next most common time of 0-5 days. However, a surprising number of shops (10%) reported average turnaround times of 15-20 days, or more than 20 days.
  • In-house vs . Outsource-Most shops (90%) do in-house design and installations, while fewer (83%) do their own in-house printing. Roughly 80 percent of shops also do in-house wrap removals and repairs. While most shops do all work in-house (58%), some (20%) say they outsource some of their printing and installations. Fewer (12%) outsource design work.
  • Materials Installed-For shops doing in-house installations, most (92%) say they install cut-vinyl graphics, and more than 80 percent say they install printed film, laminating film and perforated window film, while 52 percent say they install chrome/metallic films and 47 percent say they install color-change films. Approximately 35 percent say they also install paint protection films, and 49 percent of shops say that in addition to wrap installations, they also offer printable magnetic media for temporary vehicle signage.
  • Full Wraps vs. Partial Wraps-About 50 percent of shops report that full-coverage wraps account for one to 50 percent of their overall wraps business; while 23 percent say full-coverage wraps account for 51 to 100 percent of their overall wraps business. And similarly, about 75 percent of shops report that partial-coverage wraps account for one to 50 percent of their overall wraps business; while 21 percent say partial-coverage wraps account for 51 to 100 percent of their overall wraps business.

Wraps Pricing
Wrap shop pricing differs in different geographic areas, and factors affecting prices also often depend on population densities and proximity of competition. We did not break down pricing to account for these variables, but simply wanted to offer an overview of general pricing trends.

  • Price per Square Foot-The majority of shops report using some kind of price-per-square-foot pricing formula. Approximately 60 percent say they either charge $6-$10 or $11-$15 per square foot. Only 6 percent of shops say they are charging more than $15 per square foot.
  • Other Pricing Structures-A number of shops describe other pricing structures used, such as pricing specifically by the complexity of the job, charging a flat hourly shop rate, or pricing based on time and materials used.

Equipment and Media

  • Printers and Inks-Most shops surveyed (91%) are printing their own graphics, and are using an array of different printer brands in their shops-with some shops running multiple printers. About 39 percent of respondents say they are looking to purchase a new printer in the next year. When looking into a new printer or printer upgrade, shops say the most important factors are price, ink performance, ease of maintenance, color intensity and build quality.
    Most shops (54%) are using printers with eco-solvent or light-solvent inks, while about 18 percent are using printers equipped with latex/resin inks. A little more than 7 percent of shops are using true solvents and about 3 percent of shops use UV-curing ink systems. The majority (78%) use a cartridge-based ink system while about 13 percent employ a bulk ink system in their shop.
  • Laminators-The overwhelming majority of shops (91%) use film laminates for their wraps work, and are using laminating equipment from a variety of manufacturers. Only a little more than 3 percent of shops say they don’t laminate their work. About 24 percent of shops say they plan to purchase a new film laminator within the next year.
  • Vinyl Cutters-About 65 percent of shops have vinyl cutters in their shops, and 15 percent say the will be looking to buy or upgrade their cutter in the next year.
  • Wrap FilmAmong various categories of graphic films, more than 80 percent of shops say they use printed film, laminating film, cut vinyl film and perforated window film. Color-change film (43%) and specialty films such as chrome/metallic (47%) and paint protection (37%) films are less frequently used.
  • Film Preferences-When selecting wrap media, shops say they most prefer films that offer air-release channels (89%), conformability (80%), good durability (70%) and good print quality (69%). Other desirable attributes include color fastness, repositionability, stretchability, lifting resistance, removability and price point. Less than 10 percent of shops say that environmentally friendly films are of primary importance to them.
  • Wrap Tools-The vast majority of shops (more than 97%) say the wrap tools they use include squeegees, cutters/knives and heat guns. Most (92%) use prep cleaners, and many (about 75%) use wrap magnets, wrap gloves and knifeless tape.

Warranties and Certifications
Almost all shops (93%) offer some kind of warranty for the wrap work they do. Only about 7 percent say they offer no warranty. Of those shops offering warranties, 56 percent offer a warranty that is based on both the film manufacturer’s warranty and a shop warranty. Most (57%) say the warranty they offer does not increase the price of the wrap, while about 12 percent of shops charge between $1 and $5 per square foot for their warranty.

Installer certifications for individuals and shops are growing in popularity, but the majority of shops (52%) say they do not use certified installers. Certifications are being earned from a range of certifying bodies currently available to the industry. It is important to note that criteria for installer certification vary greatly from certifying body to certifying body.

Shops report that continuing education for installers is coming from a variety of sources, including industry trade magazines such as WRAPS magazine (58%), YouTube videos (57%), online training resources (54%), trade shows (39%) and apprenticeships (24%).

Networks, Social Media and Marketing

  • Installer Networks-Installer networks are becoming more popular in the industry as a way for wraps installers can extend their customer reach. However, most shops (69%) say they are not currently affiliated with an installer network, and 28 percent say they are not likely to outsource to one. Still, 20 percent of shops say they are likely or very likely to outsource to an installer network.
  • Social Media Presence-Many shops are looking for inexpensive ways to market themselves, and social media has become a strong marketing force among wrap shops, many of which maintain a social presence on multiple forums.
    Just over 50 percent of shops report that their presence on social media has helped increase their business, but about 26 percent say they do not use social media to market their shop. Among those shops using social media, Facebook is the most popular (67%) with strong showings for LinkedIn (27%), Twitter (26%) and Instagram (25%).
  • Shop Truck-Many wraps marketing experts agree that a wrapped shop truck is one of the most useful marketing tools available to a wrap shop. However, a surprising number of shops in this survey (32%) report that their shop vehicle is not wrapped at all. Of the shops with a wrapped shop truck, most change the wrap once a year while others change the wrap every other year or every three years.

Key findings in this report indicate that shops are doing quite well with wraps and that the industry itself is healthy and growing. Shops are profitable and the outlook is quite positive. Manufacturers continue to offer viable products that shops need, and that make the wrapping process more efficient and durable. At the same time shop owners are embracing new products and are participating in continuing wraps education. 

* From the 2016 issue of WRAPS magazine.


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Ken Mergentime

Ken Mergentime is the former executive editor of Sign & Digital Graphics and WRAPS magazines.

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