Ultima COVID survival: Innovate and overcome with market predictions for COVID-19

November 13, 2020
Innovating now can help your business survive the next wave of COVID-19 restrictions. Ultima Displays outlines its forecast for the industry and the opportunities on offer Innovating now can help your business survive the next wave of COVID-19 restrictions. Ultima Displays outlines its forecast for the industry and the opportunities on offer

When the UK was placed into lockdown on March 24th 2020, many of us forecast the effect on our industry. We expected food retailers, medical facilities and pharmacies to stay open, albeit with strict social distancing measures in place, while non-food retailers, schools, and bars and restaurants would reopen (with limited opening) in two or three months. Travel would recommence towards the end of the summer - domestic, followed by international - before the return of exhibitions and large gatherings such as sporting events and conferences, likely towards the beginning of October. Now, as we head towards the end of 2020, we can look back and see which of our predictions came to pass.

Remaining challenges - and opportunities

Travel remains largely on pause; bars and restaurants had significantly higher levels of restrictions placed upon them than our initial thoughts; schools stayed closed until the autumn term; and offices have reopened but with far fewer staff. All of these realities have reduced the demand for signage and graphics, even those relating to social distancing. However, in other areas our expectations were correct, and to support these trends we have developed and reimagined our core products and services. We helped customers maximise their opportunities with social distancing, physical separation and hygiene products along with associated marketing collateral.

We expected a second wave of COVID-19 but we didn't anticipate the level of restrictions preventing the predicted 'V'-shaped economic recovery. However, anticipating economic shifts and adapting as necessary should continue and, to that end, we have identified key trends and the opportunities they may offer to sign and display businesses.


Schools, higher education institutions and nurseries have competing priorities to protect students and staff while satisfying parents that they are adequately prepared. The return to normal activity has driven a spike in infections, but the government is resolute in ensuring educational institutions stay open. This means challenges for these sites, but some opportunities for businesses able to provide signage, printed floor stickers, sanitising stations, partitions and screens, and more. Navigating this sector can be complex, owing to government guidelines and procurement processes that are often centrally controlled, but with over 20,000 schools in the UK there is scope for repeat business.

Office and commercial

In many industries, companies are delaying the return of staff to offices until at least Q1 2021 but these sites need to be made COVID-secure now, including re-visualising spaces to allow social distancing and increased cleaning. Full fitouts can be expensive, but making robust and properly considered adaptations now can future-proof an office throughout the pandemic and beyond. Some sign and graphics companies have valuable transferable skills here; experience in exhibitions can be repurposed for interior spaces, providing partitions, work pods, modular stand solutions, showrooms, video conferencing backdrops and other applications.

Sports, events and exhibitions

These industries have been hit hard this year and restrictions, based on the science of how COVID-19 is transmitted, will continue well into Q2 and Q3 2021. Businesses and organisers in these sectors will be understandably reticent about making or taking bookings, owing to the cost of insurance and real possibility of cancellations. However, as with other sectors, there are opportunities. Restrictions on group numbers may mean smaller, more frequent or longer events, held throughout the year rather than seasonally. We may also expect several regional events rather than one large one. Many could move outdoors where the risk of spreading the virus is shown to be lower, and technology will make online virtual events commonplace. Again, display businesses have the innovation to succeed. New crowd control systems, stand designs, backdrops and vehicle displays will be needed, potentially across larger spaces and for longer periods.


Travel, often grouped with events and exhibitions, is likely to remain subdued until summer next year due to quarantine restrictions and consumers' financial concerns. However, travel businesses and transport hubs, like most others, will be looking for economical yet creative marketing tools, potentially providing work for sign companies. And businesses should bear in mind that travel will return and they should prepare for when it does.

Retail and hospitality

Kind summer weather supported the use of outdoor spaces and social distancing. Over the autumn and winter people will be less inclined to queue or congregate outside, requiring many businesses to create COVID-secure environments indoors and pushing a resurgence of click & collect. Retailers, plus restaurants, pubs and bars offering takeaways, will have to adapt with queuing and collection systems, weather protection, and information displays for track and trace. We expect growth in home deliveries, so retailers will have to make their physical stores more enticing with marketing collateral for new lines and discount sales to deal with surplus stock from the first lockdown. Furthermore, social distancing and directional signage, possibly installed as a temporary measure several months ago, will need replacing and improving with longer-term solutions. People are weary and wary of visiting places that aren't - or don't appear to be -COVID-secure, so business owners will need to invest in new systems and graphics to reassure customers.

Overcoming the next challenge

The next six to nine months will be as difficult as the past six. Sadly, we expect a number of companies will not survive. However, creativity, innovation and reinvention - things we see every day in our industry - may help your businesses overcome the next set of challenges. As a key supplier we are also here to support you. We are developing new products, both related to COVID and our core products, many designed in line with our forecasts. We have made our marketing collateral more user friendly, including four new micro-sites that can be used to drive sales on your business's website, and offer 3D CAD support including site survey visits for larger enquiries. We'd also love for you to explore our new showroom and COVID product range with 1-2-1 virtual tours. Finally, we are available to chat through any concerns, ideas or predictions of your own. We are stronger together, now and into 2021.

Share or Email this content
Graphic Display World

Email us your news, PR, case studies to [email protected]

Latest from Graphic Display World

Roland DG (UK) Ltd - VersaUV Double Your Profits
FESPA Global Expo 2023 Opens In... May 23, 2023 10:00 am 234
The Print Show 2022 Opens In... September 20, 2022 10:00 am
PRINTING United Expo 2022 Opens In... October 19, 2022 10:00 am 19
Sign & Digital UK 2023 Opens In... March 21, 2023 10:00 am 171
Your 300 x 300 Banner Here
drupa 2024 Opens In... May 28, 2024 10:00 am 605

The UK's coolest wide format printing trade press website specialising in providing punchy and concise up-to-the-minute news, views and industry opinions ...

Latest News

Four Outstanding Scottish print industry apprentices are honoured with Apprentice of the Year Awards

Four Outstanding Scottish…

Sep 29, 2022 Rate: 0.00

Neschen presents sustainable solutions at Printing United 2022 in Las Vegas

Neschen presents sustaina…

Sep 29, 2022 Rate: 0.00

PRINTING United Alliance reveals 2022 Premier PRINT Award recipients

PRINTING United Alliance …

Sep 29, 2022 Rate: 0.00

Toppan to present latest smart packaging solutions at Luxe Pack Monaco

Toppan to present latest …

Sep 29, 2022 Rate: 0.00

MaD Chair invests in an Epson SureColor SC-F6300 dye sublimation printer from CMYUK

MaD Chair invests in an E…

Sep 28, 2022 Rate: 0.00

Featured News

RadWraps, Phototex and ColourShield provide dementia-friendly graphics installations

RadWraps, Phototex and Co…

Aug 16, 2022 Rate: 0.00

SkinzWraps races ahead with Drytac for Gas Monkey Garage wall graphics project

SkinzWraps races ahead wi…

Aug 04, 2022 Rate: 0.00

Agfa-Gevaert to acquire Inca Digital Printers, taking a significant step in its digital printing business

Agfa-Gevaert to acquire I…

Apr 20, 2022 Rate: 0.00

Phototex is sustainable solution for wall decorations

Phototex is sustainable s…

Apr 19, 2022 Rate: 0.00

Type One Style gains versatility and economy with the VersaUV LEC2-330 printer

Type One Style gains vers…

Feb 23, 2022 Rate: 0.00


How an academic institution is using Coala interior film to refurbish its interiors

How an academic instituti…

Sep 16, 2022 Rate: 0.00

MacroArt “Catches ‘em all” with stunning Pokémon World Store graphics

MacroArt “Catches ‘em all…

Sep 05, 2022 Rate: 0.00

RadWraps, Phototex and ColourShield provide dementia-friendly graphics installations

RadWraps, Phototex and Co…

Aug 16, 2022 Rate: 0.00

Global Printing Enterprises brings ‘FRIENDS™ Experience’ to life with Drytac ReTac Smooth 150

Global Printing Enterpris…

Aug 09, 2022 Rate: 0.00

SkinzWraps races ahead with Drytac for Gas Monkey Garage wall graphics project

SkinzWraps races ahead wi…

Aug 04, 2022 Rate: 0.00

Your 1100 x 100 Banner Here