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Every surface covered

Every surface covered

If your perception of Soyang Europe is that it’s purely a purveyor of value for money laminate banner from the Far East, then you couldn’t be more wrong! In fact, as well as providing its customers with the highly sophisticated range of substrates produced by its Chinese-based partner, the Manchester based materials supplier now also offers a stunning range of products from the most prestigious European manufacturers too. Val Hirst reports

When Mark Mashiter first established Soyang Europe in 2005, it was to fulfil what he perceived to be a gap in the market, namely the provision of a wide variety of grand format media that combined high quality with a competitive price. And, having identified the Chinese company Soyang International as being a manufacturer that was not only capable of providing such a range, but was also one that was eager to further enhance its product offering to meet the exacting standards of European consumers, Mark revealed his willingness to take the sort of calculated risk that always seems to be synonymous with the most dashing and successful entrepreneurs. Engagingly, he readily admits that when the first consignment of substrates arrived from Soyang, he had to pay the VAT bill with his credit card, but happily it was a risk that has more than paid off.

Now a mere seven years later, Soyang Europe operates from a 25,000sq.ft warehouse in Bury that is literally crammed to the rafters with a total materials stockholding amounting to 1.3 million sq.metres, and includes a substrate for every conceivable application, ranging from wall and floor graphics to banners and building wraps, plus everything in between.  This mammoth inventory is something that Mark maintains is essential if the company is to live up to its reputation of being able to provide its customers with the widest possible range of substrates for use with all of the commonly used digital printing technologies.

“I loathe the term ‘one-stop shop’”, observes Mark, “But in essence, when it comes to printable materials, that’s what we are – whether you’re using an entry level wide format Mimaki, Mutoh or Roland printer, or something like a grand format Agfa, Durst, HP or VUTEk, we can provide the perfect substrate for practically any application you care to name and we can do it on a next day delivery basis too!”

Mark and his Sales Director, Andrew Simmons, both come from an industrial textiles background; something that has uniquely equipped them to understand the demands placed upon the products they sell to the sign and display sectors and the need for media to keep pace with the on-going developments in digital printing.

“R & D is something that is very important to us,” says Andrew, explaining that Soyang has an R & D Centre that boasts a staff of 20 people, who are constantly re-examining the relationship between structure and performance and who strive to maintain the necessary balance between quality and price.

Mark adds that as the business has grown, the materials portfolio has also expanded to encompass products from such companies as the Portuguese manufacturer Endutex and the German textiles specialist Aurich, with the former supplying the non-PVC materials that are becoming increasingly desirable as many brand leaders address the demand for more environmentally friendly signs and graphics and the latter catering for the growing interest in soft signage and decorative textiles with its range of fabrics for use with dye-sublimation printers.

He says: “Initially 100 percent of our inventory came from Soyang International, but nowadays Soyang products account for around 50 percent of the portfolio, with most of the rest coming from Europe.  We are always very selective about the partners we choose preferring to stick with companies that control every aspect of their production so that we can be sure that the highest quality standards are upheld all the way along the chain.”

Mark goes on to add that it’s an equally important part of the Soyang ethos to partner with manufacturers who are receptive to the feedback that the company can provide, remarking: “The big challenge for manufacturers is to keep abreast of what’s actually happening out there in the market, because it’s all very well for a material to perform in the laboratory, but it’s how it performs out in the field that really matters!”

Andrew agrees, observing that since he and the five-strong sales team probably deal direct with just about every grand format digital print company in the country, it is perfectly positioned to provide the level of market intelligence that enables its manufacturer partners to fine tune their existing products and devise new ones to meet changing demands.

In fact, if could be said that Soyang’s two latest arrivals, AlumiGraphics and GFloor Graphics, do just that.

Mark and Andrew proclaim their excitement regarding these two new additions to the portfolio, with Mark saying: “Both products enable sign and display companies to add extra value and thus realise extra profits, by enabling them to further extend the scope of their services.”

He predicts that signmakers will love AlumiGraphics, which, as its name suggests, is a flexible aluminium-based signmaking material that comes in two different options, Grip and Smooth, to facilitate the easy application of signs and graphics on ground and wall surfaces that would previously have provided something of a challenge.

AlumiGraphics Grip, which has a non-skid finish, has a specially formulated adhesive that enables it to be used as an outdoor durable floor graphic that offers a lifespan of several months, even when subjected to harsh climatic conditions. In addition, any area left unprinted offers a pleasing reflective quality, which is further heightened when placed under a bright light and can be used creatively to enhance the decorative effect of any design. Equally efficacious in terms of its tenacity and reflective qualities, is AlumiGrip Smooth, which is designed for application on walls, and is conformable enough for use on even heavily textured brick work, requiring nothing more taxing than roller and/or finger pressure to aid its adherence.  It requires no overlaminate and, in common with the Grip version, it is quick and easy to remove without leaving any unsightly residue.

The second new arrival, G–Floor, will, claims Andrew, re-invigorate the market for floor advertising and promotional graphics.  He says: “Traditionally, this has been an area fraught with problems, as durability and practicality have always been issues when longer term applications are required, which is what makes G-Floor such a find!”

This high tech new media, which was originally developed in the USA, is based on a high-density clear, flexible PVC substrate, which can be printed on the underside, using either UV or solvent inks on a grand-format printer.  The genius of this is that the image is automatically protected from scuffs, abrasions and every day wear and tear by the thick vinyl layer above it.  Furthermore G-Floor offers a choice of different surface finishes, is easy to install and reposition and meets the strict hygiene requirements stipulated by hospitals and food preparation areas, as well as featuring excellent load-bearing capabilities.  It also exhibits low-noise and sound absorbing characteristics too.  G-Floor is available in widths up to 3m and thicknesses to suit virtually all flatbed, roll-to-roll or hybrid grand format printers, and in order to tick every box, a solid white version is also available for surface printing via four colour process.

Andrew continues:  “The applications it opens up are endless – it can be used in any sort of retail space, hotels, restaurants, bars, fitness clubs and spas, car dealerships and just about any public space, providing any company that owns a grand format printer with myriad new business opportunities!”

In fact, so limitless are the possibilities that Soyang is keen to nurture creative partnerships with both their grand format customers and their customers and influencers in order to fully capitalise on the product’s potential.

In order to accommodate both these two new additions and further new arrivals in the future, Soyang Europe is currently planning a move to new premises – a 70,000sq.ft facility that is conveniently situated within a mile from the M65 near Accrington.  In order to minimise disruption to customers, the move, which is being planned with military precision, will be staggered, with stock gradually being transferred over a three-month period, starting in April.

“We’ll have more space for everything, including a proper showroom,” says Mark with satisfaction, “and we’ll also be able to provide a much nicer working environment for the team, which, due to the rapid growth we’ve experienced over the last couple of years, is now squashed into one office to provide enough warehousing space.”

Soyang Europe has certainly come along way since Mark acquired his first container load of substrates but he warns: “We’ve still got further to go – there’s a lot I want to achieve on the supply front and in Accrington, we’ll have the extra space and resources to do it!”

Definitely a case of ‘Watch this space!’

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