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A diversified service offering that includes interior and exterior signage, lighting, specialty contracting and facilities maintenance gives ImageOne Industries an up-close look at the evolving retail scene. Chain Store Age spoke with ImageOne Industries president Jim Mikula about some of the trends the company is seeing.

What trends are you seeing in retail signage and graphics?

The sign has changed and adapted to technology as it became available. The days of sign painters and their pounce pads and Mahl sticks have been replaced with sophisticated, computerized printers with the ability to deposit your imagination onto virtually any substrate. And it is all not just light and printing. There is impregnated vinyl, Teflon-based paints that are self-cleaning and last for 15 years, aluminum composite materials, and aluminum extrusions.

This boom in modern technology has given designers, store planners and architects a fresh pallet of tools with which to create brand environments with signage and identification as the centerpiece, revolutionizing the way brand experiences are defined.

Is there still a lot of activity in LED retrofits?

Absolutely. There are thousands upon thousands of electric signs still functioning today using neon and fluorescent lighting. While technology and advances in manufacturing and distribution have significantly lowered the cost of LEDs, the cost of a field retrofit is still rather expensive when a lamp change or neon repair will do the trick. As suppliers and manufacturers, we have to continually educate our end users and demonstrate that, although the cost of the retrofit might seem steep, the payback in energy usage, service calls and maintenance will far outweigh the initial investment.

A lot of commercial users are still holding out, but we have been seeing an upturn. There is still a lot of opportunity in the LED retrofit market, and we see it getting better as more and more users are seeing the light.

Your Total Support Division provides extensive maintenance services. What advice do you have for retailers in this area?

We recommend retailers develop a two-tiered maintenance program composed of preventative maintenance and service as required to maintain freshness and present a modern and ‘up to date’ appearance.

Develop the programs in unison with your preferred vendor or vendors. You should always establish defined lines of measurable performance and communication. We work with our clients to set and achieve measurable goals throughout these programs. This allows us to establish mutual trust and confidence, as we prove that we understand our clients’ business needs and are able to meet/exceed their value expectations.

Tell us about ImageOne and its services.

Almost immediately, we realized that signs were good at displaying the customer name, but that image environments were the wave of the future. So instead of just building the sign, we began building and installing the entire architectural fascia system. At the same time, retail interiors were changing. Painted walls were being replaced with large-scale graphics and changeable images. We decided to spin off our graphics department into a full division: Impact Décor.

This also occurred with our Total Support Division. Most sign companies offer sign maintenance, but we were being asked by our customers to go further. Our service department grew into a full facility management division that covers assignments like snow removal, landscaping, HVAC and more.

Our National Banking Environments Division started out making ATM Toppers and Surrounds and soon grew to banking fixtures and specialty furniture.

One Construction followed suit. It was a natural progression. Now, we’re doing remodels, retrofits and buildouts for the restaurant, banking, and retail industries throughout the U.S. All of our divisions grew out of customer need.

Are more customers taking advantage of your multiple divisions?

Yes. Actually, our division growth is a direct result of our customer base asking for help with issues that were originally outside of our normal scope of services.

All of our divisions complement the services and products that we offer. By operating in this fashion we are able to offer our customers a single point of service where the responsibility for performance is controlled by a single fulcrum rather than relying on the schedules and deadlines of several vendors.

Multi-division relationships come heavily into play with the issue of warranties. The customer makes one phone call, and there is no question that the issue will be handled.

How do you maintain quality assurance on a national level?

Your entire reputation hinges on the quality of your last job, so you better make sure it’s done right. We’ve found that the highest level of quality is maintained through defined lines of communication with our field personnel and with our customer. It’s imperative that all parties fully understand the work scope, timelines and expected quality of the finished product.

Above all, put your own site supervisor on site for the duration of the job.

All of the quality control procedures and checklists will work very well on the manufacturing floor and assure that the product being shipped to the field matches or surpasses specifications. But when it gets to the field, it’s the personnel on site and the supervisor directing the work that will define the quality of the entire job.

There’s a lot that goes into the quality of the finished product, but a telephone, a camera, the Internet, and the right people in the field and in the office go a long way in guaranteeing that it’s done right.

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