Industry leaders optimistic heading into 2022

One of the projects completed by Mattatal Signs. Photo courtesy Mattatall Signs

By Courtney Bachar

COVID-19 continues to have an impact on the sign industry. As 2021 comes to an end and the country continues to emerge from the pandemic, Sign Media Canada spoke to sign shops and suppliers about the current state of the industry and what they are forecasting heading into 2022. Most say demand is still below pre-pandemic levels and they have been impacted by supply shortages; however, business has increased in the latter half of 2021. Optimism for the future is high with expectations demand will continue to increase, and processes will be updated to better handle supply challenges.

 

Justin Boudreau, Mattatall Signs 

How has 2021 been for you? How did it compare to 2020?

It has been a year like no other. Whereas 2020 was filled with uncertainty, 2021 brought an unprecedented demand coupled with breaks in our supply chain. We’ve made it through, but have adapted many processes.

 

Have you been affected by the supply shortage? If so, how?

We absolutely have been affected. Items that were previously readily available from our distributors or normal suppliers are now becoming more difficult to get our hands on, especially in a timely manner.

 

What are you forecasting for 2022? Do you expect it to be different? If so, how?

All current signs (forgive the pun) point toward the supply chain issues getting worse before they get better. This is what we are expecting to see as we head into 2022, and we are adjusting our procurement processes to ensure we are meeting the expectations of our clients as best as possible.

 

Tandem operation allows the loading and unloading process to occur at the same time. Photo courtesy Zünd America

Beatrice Drury, Zünd America Inc.

How has 2021 been for you? How did it compare to 2020? 

2021 was better than 2020 although not significantly. Because of the modularity of Zünd digital cutting systems, many of our customers were able to pivot from their normal production and adapt to pandemic-related changes in the marketplace, so we fared surprisingly well in 2020. The return of in-person events in 2021, at least in certain industry segments, has been helpful for creating new opportunities.

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Have you been affected by the supply shortage? If so, how? 

More than by the supply shortage, we have been affected by the global shipping crisis and the resulting delays and cost increases.

 

Has business improved in the latter half of 2021? 

Actually, for us, that hasn’t really been the case. The logistics disruptions and extended delivery times have definitely slowed equipment purchasing decisions that would normally speed up at this time of year.  The ongoing uncertainties tied to COVID and its variants have also caused more tradeshow cancellations (e.g. Printing United), which normally would have contributed significantly to a surge in year-end orders.

 

What are you forecasting for 2022? Do you expect it to be different? If so, how? 

Unless the shipping disruptions continue, we expect to keep making gains in 2022. Tradeshow schedules and cross-border traffic returning to normal should help as well. In anticipation of these improvements, we are increasing the investment in our distribution and support network all over North America, but especially in Canada, by expanding our salesforce.

 

One of the many signs created this year for an Agro/Tourism farm in Nebraska. Photo courtesy Imagination Corporation

Dan Sawatzky, Imagination Corporation

How has 2021 been for you? How did it compare to 2020? 

2021 has been a busy year at the design table with a record number of exciting projects in development. We have landed lots of new large customers this past year. The projects we are designing are far reaching into 2021 and beyond. 2021 was much busier than 2020.

Have you been affected by the supply shortage? If so, how? 

The supply shortages haven’t affected us in a big way. We order our supplies in bulk and well ahead of when we require them. We have seen a marked increase in the prices across the board.

Has business improved in the latter half of 2021? 

Business has definitely improved in the latter half of 2021. In the first year-and-a-half of COVID we experienced an understandable reluctance by customers to heavily invest in their businesses with all of the uncertainty but that seems to be waning at last. We have moved into the Agro/Tourism business in a big way this year and signed up some great new farms, which will keep us busy for a long time to come. 

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What are you forecasting for 2022? Do you expect it to be different? If so, how? 

2022 should be a great year with numbers returning to pre-COVID status and perhaps even better.

 

One of the many projects Signex has completed. Photo courtesy Signex Manufacturing

Stacey Gagne, Signex Manufacturing

How has 2021 been for you? How did it compare to 2020? 

It has been substantially busier than 2020 as a result of several projects being put on hold with so many unknowns at the height of the pandemic. By the time 2021 arrived, people were ready to continue and keep things moving ahead.

Have you been affected by the supply shortage? If so, how? 

We have noticed significant delays and price increases in different materials and products along with inconsistent delivery times, which can be very challenging to manage. These types of issues continue to be a concern across many different industries and that subsequently has created a sense of awareness and understanding from many of our clients which we have been very grateful for.

Has business improved in the latter half of 2021? 

Business has stayed relatively the same for all of 2021. It was almost as if 2020 was a crash course year, and by 2021, most people had figured out the best practices and procedures to move forward as we continue to navigate the continual changes.

What are you forecasting for 2022? Do you expect it to be different? If so, how? 

With everything changing so rapidly and unexpectedly, it is very challenging to forecast the future, but the one thing that does always seem to be consistent, is going forward will be different. We have all been continuously adapting both personally and professionally, so as long as the industry can endure whatever it is that may be next, we will persevere.

 

Custom finishes are what Gemini is known for including mirror polished finishing on custom profiles. Photo courtesy Gemini Made

Kerri Eady, Gemini Made

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How has 2021 been for you? How did it compare to 2020? 

Gemini has been very fortunate to have strong partnerships with many sign companies, keeping us busy through 2021. We experienced significant volume increases in certain sectors the industry supports and were grateful for what we would consider a successful year despite the challenges. In comparison to 2020, we feel 2021 was an overall improvement when considering our ability to put focus back on the business and what felt like more forward movement in the industry.

 

Have you been affected by the supply shortage? If so, how? 

We have come to learn no matter the amount of planning or preparedness you thought you had in place, very few, if any, are immune to the current supply chain disruptions. We value the strong partnerships we have with our suppliers and continue to keep the communication flow open and frequent to ensure we are making timely and accurate decisions with our inventory needs. Like most businesses, we have been impacted by some shortages in specific regions, but work hard to minimize the impact to our customers and team. We have appreciated the support and patience of our customers through those challenges. We consider ourselves lucky in both regards—to have the supply network we have and the understanding of our customers.

 

Has business improved in the latter half of 2021? 

Gemini has been fortunate to experience strong sales in 2021 and continues to see this trending upward. We credit the resurgence of the economy and the confidence of many businesses and brands. Clients are now moving forward with projects placed on pause at the beginning of the pandemic. An anticipated by-product of this activity will be a re-focus of many businesses into development and growth and for our industry—branding signage.

 

What are you forecasting for 2022? Do you expect it to be different? If so, how

If we learned anything from the past 18 months, it has been to appreciate nothing is certain. However, if we focus on current trends, we are optimistic 2022 will be the same, if not better, than 2021 in terms of volume and opportunity. We continue to keep a close eye on supply chain disruptions and material costing to ensure we are preparing our teams and providing all necessary visibility to our partners. Our top priority remains to support the signage and graphics industry with resources and solutions. We are confident our heightened focus on planning and continued investments in strategy will benefit our partners as well as navigate 2022.

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