Unrolling Vinyl Wrap Strategies

By Chris Collier

The wrapping world is calling your name, but the necessary materials, tools and training don’t run cheap. Consider industry veterans’ experiences with the segment before test-driving it yourself.

Making a Statement

Jeremiah Bienko, owner/operator of SickWrap in Tampa, Fla., entered the vinyl wrapping market on a mission. A twenty-two-year veteran of the wrap industry, Bienko had two choices when he founded his business—play it safe or go big. He chose the latter.

“We could try to be competitive in the market with our pricing or make a statement in the city of Tampa,” Bienko says of his industry entrance. “We called other shops and found out what their prices were. We went for the highest price. We wanted to be known for being the best and give the best product. ‘If we’re going to offer this service, we won’t compete with the market. We’re going to set the highest price in the city of Tampa and stand our ground.’”

Bienko and his team targeted high-end exotic vehicles. “Know your worth,” he says. “We had to sit there and refuse client after client with the Honda Civics and the Ford Mustangs [because of pricing]. They wanted us to compete with the market.”

A year later, Ferraris and Lamborghinis were pulling into Bienko’s installation bays. SickWrap had attracted higher-end vehicles through pricing. “Five grand is nothing for a guy with a Lambo. We picked who we wanted wanted to work with,” he adds.

Longevity and Lifespan

“I think all films translate [to each other] in a sense,” says Cory Athanasuleas, who oversees the film department at Alabama’s Classic Car Motoring. “I knew a young gentleman who had window tint experience. I taught him paint protection film (PPF), and it seemed to translate. They don’t install the same way, but you can get a sense of wrinkles, material thicknesses and different compounds and mediums.”

Athanasuleas says it’s important for new wrappers to note misconceptions surrounding the lifespan of vinyl wraps. Longevity is dependent on a vehicle’s storing and driving conditions.

“I’ve wrapped cars that look as good as the day I wrapped them eight years ago because they’re garage queens,” Athanasuleas explains. “I’ve also wrapped Toyota FJ Cruisers that have gone satin black, been outside for four years and the film is cracking off. You need to manage the expectations upfront because it is so expensive. You can’t just sell this, have a really happy
customer and then they’re calling you asking what the heck is going on in a couple years.”

Athanasuleas says if a wrapped car isn’t garage-kept and routinely-maintained, horizontal surfaces (hood, roof and trunk lid) will degrade within two years.

“Heat, ultraviolet (UV) ray damage and heat from the engine degrades these films so quickly,” Athanasuleas advises future wrappers. “If you don’t get it off after four years, you’ve got some serious problems—potentially paint problems.”

A wrapper for 15 years, Athanasuleas says wraps are only as good as the paint jobs underneath the application. He compared PPF to wraps, noting that the former is much more difficult to install.

“Most of the time, PPF is going on brand new Ferraris and McLarens,” Athanasuleas shares. “You have to be surgical in your procedure. You can get away with a little more with wrap material. You may not see a smudge under a color change wrap. But you will see it under a clear PPF.”

New to the Game

Today, color-change wraps are Sick-Wrap’s bread and butter. Making up 90% of all projects at the business, Bienko says the segment’s growth has provided freedom. “It’s allowed us to be able to pick and choose what business we do want to do,” he adds.

Though he started from the bottom, Bienko’s wrap business is booming. Should PPF shops incorporate the product segment into their service mix?

“Anyone who is offering PPF is out of their mind if they’re not offering wraps,” Bienko says. “Whether it’s a wet (PPF) or a dry (wrap) installation, [there is carryover]. Looking at what you’re doing with PPF, it’s the same stretch and technique for vinyl wraps. It should be a very easy transition for a PPF installer to pick up color-change wraps.”

Bienko says wrapping a vehicle includes a definite learning curve.

“The tack points are going to be different,” Bienko says. “The tack points with PPF, with pre-cut patterns, are usually on the panel itself. With wraps, you work with a bigger piece. You can tack the [vinyl] on the panel next to it and stretch it across to the panel next to it. The guys who bulk PPF are probably already wrapping. There’s a transition [for those that do pre-cut patterns].”

Bienko recommends that pre-cut PPF pattern installers try their hand at bulk installations if they want to enter the wrapping world.

“If you’re a pattern guy, start bulking the front-end and the fenders,” he says. “Bulk the fender and cut the fender yourself. If want to learn how to color-change, stop using patterns. With wraps, you cut a chunk off the roll. There are no pre-cut kits for wraps. That’s a great way for people to transition.”

Deconstruction Required

“In the PPF world, you’re paying attention to alignment, dry marks and debris,” says Trevor Zielinski, owner of Echelon Autosports in Scottsdale, Ariz. “In the wrap world, we’re taking apart many of these vehicles. Disassembly alone can be an overwhelming task with some vehicles.”

Zielinski started Echelon Autosports in 2010, leaping into the wrap division of the film industry shortly after.

“We did automotive styling,” says Zielinski, who oversees a team of 12. “We sold parts online and installed aftermarket accessories. Wraps weren’t even a part of the profile back then. In late 2011/early 2012, we saw wraps become more popular and tried our hand. Seeing that we were in the aftermarket accessory and modification avenue, solid color wraps were a good add-on
for the company. It blew up from there.”

Chris Collier is the editor for PPFMag.

To view the laid-in version of this issue in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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