PRINTING United Expo Day 1: New Tech, Decorating Tips, Product Trends and More Live from Atlanta
Day one of the PRINTING United Expo in Atlanta is in the books, and boy, are our feet tired.
Seriously folks, this show is huge. I know I've said that after Dallas, and then again after Vegas last year. But this one is next-level. With more than 1 million sq. ft. of show floor space and a full day of education sessions, there was enough for promotional products distributors and suppliers to fill weeks.
But, unfortunately, we only have a few days, so we scoured the show floor for narratives and tidbits that especially stand out to the promotional products audience.
So, read on for places we saw the convergence of the print world and promotional products space through decoration technology, product trends in pieces like signage and apparel, and ways that technology can aid in the distributor and supplier business model.
1. Decoration Ease
Throughout the show floor, printers and equipment manufacturers are showcasing their latest equipment that makes the job of an apparel decorator, embroiderer, or any other customization easier.
At GSG, Liz Beavers, territorial manager for embroidery, is showcasing the ZSK embroidery machine that runs 24/7 production for embroidery. What really made this booth demonstration interesting, though, was the fact that the ZSK runs with the Coloreel program, which Beavers called a "game-changer for all embroidery companies."
"It takes one white thread and will dye it to any color that you need—any PMS," Beavers says. "No more inventory of threads, no more waiting for colored threads to come in. It will perfectly match any PMS, all your bleeds, no more inventory, and faster production."
At STAHLS', Dan Conner, content director, walked us through their Fulfill Engine software, which is geared toward e-commerce sellers or things like company stores.
"It essentially automates every step of the process so that you could not only have connections to online stores, whether it's Shopify or any white label store that you have, you could order a blank and it's going to order the transfer for it," Conner says. "So when those arrive, they'll get married up with a barcode. Fulfill Engine is a paperless system. There's absolutely no need for printed work orders, and it eliminates all that waste."
Once the barcode is scanned, it pulls the artwork, tells the user the garment it's meant to be printed on, and projects the art from the HotTronix press onto the garment. This allows the user to perfectly line up the artwork to print in seconds.
"You can take anybody and allow them to become a perfect pro when you're heat printing," Conner says. "Because now it's showing exactly where it's projecting onto the platen, and we'll be able to print this."
2. Don't Be Afraid of Color
Throughout the show floor, there were no shortages of colorful displays. Sublimated textiles like towels, scarves, and apparel were everywhere. UV-printed coasters used neon colors that could glow as opposed to traditional wood or leather (though those materials were well represented on the floor).
3. Different Drinkware Printing
A lot of drinkware like ceramic mugs and water bottles are decorated using either laser engraving or pad printing, but there were plenty of examples of UV printing and direct-to-fabric printing for drinkware on the show floor.
This can work for items like water bottles, shot. Glasses, tumblers, and much more in the drinkware space, in addition to items like golf products and paper products.
4. Apparel Trends
Since apparel decoration is such a large part of the show, there are plenty of suppliers on the floor showing off their latest styles. There aren't too many big surprises—no out-of-left-field runway designs. But it underscores points we've made in the past about where apparel is going.
Apparel that can work as comfortwear at home and stylish streetwear at the same time continue to be in high demand. People want what they want to wear, to put it plainly. Comfortable sweatshirts and sweatpants work in any situation.
Also, T-shirts are still boxier and baggier. Retro fits with longer sleeves, wider silhouettes, and chunky material continue to dominate. Colors are mostly subdued earth tones and bold colors like navy blue and forest green.
In terms of the decoration, the art of the concert tee seems to have impacted all of promotional apparel. End-users are looking at multiple imprint places, with smaller prints on the front and expanded designs on the back. Maybe even a sleeve imprint to add even more flair.
Stay tuned for more coverage of this year's PRINTING United Expo, where we'll continue to report from the show floor, recap education sessions and panels, and go in-depth with attendees and exhibitors about how suppliers and distributors alike can up their promo game.