Maintaining a niche
Today, direct digital inkjet printing technologies for fabrics have led to a significant increase in the number of companies—including sign shops—capable of producing textile graphics and flags.
“In recent years, the demand has been driven by the sign industry for teardrop flags, table drapes, tent canopies and other large-format textile graphics,” says Paul, “since the hardware for printing them has become more accessible. The technology has allowed companies to enter this market that wouldn’t otherwise bother producing flags.”
Facing such competition and the growth of textile printing well beyond traditional flags and banners, one of the keys to The Flag Store’s success has been to maintain a niche focus.
“We intentionally decided not to print on vinyl, which has become commoditized,” says Cecilia. “We’re not trying to compete with that business. We know fabrics and their sewing and finishing requirements. And as both the printing and sewing sides of our business have grown, we have the advantage of being able to combine our processes for larger items.”
“It’s more than just printing,” Paul agrees. “There’s a lot involved in finishing, as well.”
Similarly, the company knows flagpoles. In 1998, the Burkes bought the Canada/U.S. division of Formenta, a Swedish manufacturer of fibreglass poles, which in many cases have replaced earlier aluminum and steel flagpoles.
“Fibreglass poles don’t rust like steel and they feature a silent shaft, unlike aluminum,” she explains. “They’re salt-resistant and offer better wind strength with their flexibility. They can even be tilted down to the ground, so you don’t need a bucket truck.”
To better service its market, The Flag Store transports its flags and poles to customers’ homes and installs them on-site, even in rock.
“We take great pride seeing them in the ground,” says Cecilia. “Canada 150 has been phenomenal for installing new flagpoles in front of people’s homes and on their garages.”