In 27 years at Fantasy Prints, Paul Martin, marketing and social media manager has never ordered multiple pallets of the same product for the Berwick-upon-Tweed signage, printing, clothing, and gift business. Neither has he had any demand for floor graphics but the COVID-19 Lockdown has changed all that.
In the last eight weeks, Fantasy Prints has consistently reordered large volumes of materials from CMYUK’s Safe Spaces range to meet the unprecedented spike in demand for external and internal floor graphics.
An individual customer alone recounts Paul, accounted for an entire large consignment of CMYUK UTACK Multi-Surface Textile for installation across 350 of its UK sites. Fantasy Prints has produced floor graphics for both large and small companies nationwide, while its trade services for this type of application has been busy too.
The company traditionally services holiday parks and leisure centres, all sectors that were immediately impacted by COVID-19. With 90 per cent of its business disappearing overnight, the company shut its doors for the first four weeks of Lockdown.
Despite appearances, it was a month well spent. MD, Sarah McMorn recognised that social distancing would be the new required norm and requested that Paul and another colleague design a clutch of social distancing products for the Fantasy Prints’ website. In turn, Paul applied the SEO principles he had learned on a Google Training course the year before and began to promote the items online. Before long, Fantasy Prints was top of Google rankings.
“What I discovered from Google was no matter how many buttons you put on your website what matters is what happens behind the scenes. “That's what I did for social distancing. I looked at what people might be typing in. I didn’t spend anything on Google advertising. It all been through organic searching,” says Paul.
The business was reopened, with one machine operator bought back in, who before long was joined by several others.
Paul turned to CMYUK, which he describes as the “best supplier” during this time to keep the materials coming, so Fantasy Prints could meet its large order volumes.
New customers, new business
In an unprecedented turn, 95 per cent of the customers Fantasy Prints is currently servicing are new to the company, on-boarded in the main by the need for floor graphics. The company has now printed floor signage and other related safeguarding applications for hundreds of schools, churches, and hairdressers preparing for their re-opening next month as well as large numbers of businesses from Northern Ireland.
“We’ve had every sort of business you could think of big and small, schools, multinationals and everything in between,” says Paul.
Once Fantasy Prints has delivered a floor graphic, it’s finding that the same customers are curious to know what else it can produce, leading to even more work.
“The industry has changed as to what people are asking for and we've adapted to that,” he says.
Traditional customers now are preparing their re-entry. It is likely that holiday parks will be opening again in July, meaning that floor, wall, and other safeguarding applications will be required to maintain social distancing guidelines.
“We've got this idea of producing large stickers that seal a caravan door, so when a new set of holidaymakers arrive, they break the seal to enter but in the knowledge that their caravan is clean and safe,” says Paul.
The right tools for the job
Paul is in no doubt that the Fantasy Prints hardware portfolio has allowed it to step up to the demands of the new opportunities. The company purchased an EFI VUTEk GS2000LX from CMYUK in 2017 that runs alongside two other wide-format digital printers, and installed an ESKO X24 digital cutting table, again from CMYUK in early 2018.
The floor graphics are being output through the VUTEk due to its high production speeds and industrial capacity, while the other machines in the company’s arsenal are outputting banners and wall graphics.
Alongside, the ESKO Kongsberg X24 Edge is cutting all day, every day. “We’ve certainly got the right kit,” says Paul.
Currently, the company is working with CMYUK to implement an intelligent workflow system that can efficiently combine its growing online orders with work coming through traditional channels. It is looking to take advantage of CMYUK’s guidance with the latest update to the Government Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which now directly supports capital asset finance. CBILS is designed to boost the UK’s digital printing industry by enabling it to invest in capital equipment at highly advantageous terms between 0 to 10 per cent low deposit finance, with no interest or fees payable in the first year.
Fantasy Print’s Lockdown experience has set a blueprint for how it will do business in the future. Focussing on how it optimises its website to effectively present products and services has already generated revenue. Understanding marketing cycles and pre-empting events, displaying products in situ to inspire customers, and presenting templates that can be easily customised to make purchasing as simple as possible are the takeaways the company has learned from this experience.
Fantasy Prints plans to further collaborate with CMYUK. It will be evaluating new applications from the latter’s extensive textile, fabric, and materials portfolio to continue its pre-emptive, innovative, and agile company mindset. This will enable the company to better handle the ever-changing conditions and demands of the market.