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Moving on

Moving on

A year ago, when Soyang Europe first relocated to swish new premises in Lancashire’s scenically stunning Calder valley, its primary concern was to provide more warehousing capacity for its vast range of premium substrates, as well as a pleasant working environment for its staff, but as Val Hirst discovers, the move has paid dividends in more ways than one.

Visitors to Soyang’s new gaff can’t help but be impressed.  Instead of the usual grim industrial estate surroundings, the 68,500sq.ft purpose-built facility, which has been the company’s nerve centre since July last year, boasts views to die for, with the front of the building overlooking miles of undulating Lancashire countryside, including, in the far distance, the majestic Pendle Hill.

The move was necessitated by the fact that the company was bursting out of its previous premises in Bury, whichwas literally stocked from floor to rafters with the eclectic range of printable substrates on which Soyang has built its reputation. However, as well as gaining much needed space to breathe and a working environment that surpasses all others, Soyang has also enjoyed a 23 percent increase in business since relocating. It’s no wonder Manager Director, Mark Mashiter is looking so happy!

Explaining the company’s gratifying level of growth, Mark espouses the view that while banner material remainsits biggest selling product, it has also benefitted hugely from the enthusiasm engendered by G-Floor, the remarkable printable flooring product that it first introduced at the beginning of 2014, since when it has sold what Mark describes as: “20 containers; worth!”  Made from a high-density clear flexible PVC substrate that can be printed on the underside so that the graphic is completely protected, G-Floor is highly durable, slip resistant and an excellent noise dampener.  And the fact that it is also easy to install and reposition has ensured that it is fast becoming the flooring of choice for applications inretail, corporate and public spaces. Even more importantly, it has opened up myriad new opportunities for sign and print companies equipped with super-wide format printers.

Mark observes: “It’s no exaggeration to say that G-Floor has been a game changer for some of our customers, particularly those with retail clients who appreciate the fact that it can be easily installed without causing major disruption – an important consideration when you are talking about costly selling space. What’s more, it can be printed to convincingly simulate any traditional flooring finishor to replicate any design, pattern, or promotional message required, while also offering our customers the opportunity to make very healthy profits.”

Mark, who has been joined by Sales Director Andrew Simmons illustrates his point by taking me to the company’s smart new showroom and providing a diverse range of samples that resemble everything from rich dark wood to strikingzebra stripes and even a novel ‘pebble’ floor with a convincing 3D effect.

He adds that since flooring is traditionally an expensive element of any interior design project, price is not generally an end-users’  first consideration, saying:  “It’s a whole new way of selling, which majors on the benefits rather than the cost and for print companies that can get their heads around that, it’s providing some very lucrative opportunities indeed.”

Mark goes on to suggest that another reason behind the company’s growth is the rising popularity of digital textile printing, which is increasingly being used for all categories of signs and banners and is being further fuelled by the fact that very creditable results can now be achieved on standard digital printers. Citing his best sellers in this area to be textiles for backlit lightboxes, he opines: “Once again, retailers have helped to pioneer the use of textile based graphics, partly due to their ease of installation and transportation, plus the fact that they are a greener option,but also because of the wonderful subtle effects that can be achieved.At the same time, the advent of latex inks, plus the new generation of ultra-flexible inks has brought digital textile printing within the reach of most sign and print companies. A little experimentation with different materials enables them to build enough of a market to help fund the purchase of a dedicated textile printer as and when demand dictates.”

Once again a host of samples are proffered and I admire the vibrant graphics adorning fabrics that have an attractive silky finish and are a dream to drape.

However, despite these new industry favourites, once we enter the mammoth warehouse, it is easy to see that at least some of Soyang’s recent success is down to the sheer scope of its stockholding.   The warehouse is divided into two cavernous areas both equipped with copious amounts of racking with enough space leftover to accommodate an HGV so that new substrate deliveries can be safely unloaded inside. An adjoining space, which is currently tenanted, will provide the extra room required as the company continues to grow.

Mark cheerfully confides that the warehouse contains a mind boggling 1.4 million sq.metres of stock, which is why Soyang can guarantee next-day delivery on UK orders placed before 5.00pm with goodsarriving in Holland and Belgium within two to three days and elsewhere in Europe within a week of ordering.

But it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this sort of stockholding requires an enormous capital investment, which is where new recruit Jill Maude comes in. Jill previously worked for Mark’s bank and proved to be so helpful during the time that Mark was negotiating to purchase the new property, that he promptly invited her to join the Soyang team! Now Jill is using her considerable skills and knowledge of the finance sectorto secure the best currency deals for the company when trading with Soyang International, its Chinese partner and its plethora of European suppliers, while also thoroughly investigating and assessing the various money saving options that will enable it to become even more efficient in terms of stock control and energy conservation.

With regard to the latter, Soyang is already enjoying a considerable saving on electricity, which will amount to some £7,000 a year, following its substitution of the traditional fluorescent tubes in the warehouse with more energy efficient – and much brighter – LEDs.  While agreeing that these were initially more expensive, Mark offers that their increased longevity also means less maintenance, and adds: “We have also installed a sensor so the lights are operated by movement and automatically go off when the warehouse is unoccupied.”

One area where Soyang won’t be stinting though, is in the refitting of its kitchen, which is destined for a revamp of Gordon Ramseyesque proportions.  Mark explains that he is keen for the company’s 15-strong staff, many of which have been with Soyang Europe since its inception, to have somewhere pleasant to sit during breaks, and also to provide a facility to informally entertain customers and suppliers.  While he and Andrew enjoyed a low- key celebration of their first year in the new premises, he is hoping that there will be many repetitions of a recent jolly occasion that brought together several of Soyang’s biggest customers. Although technically speaking, these are companies that are competing against each other, it seems that they all thoroughly enjoyed swapping news and banter and empathising over the various difficulties that arise when dealing with exacting clients!

Looking to the future, Mark predicts that in the world of materials there will be an increasing demand for both printable textiles and other non-PVC substrates as the demand for greener alternatives once again starts to gather momentum.

He goes on to remark that this is a demand that Soyang International, which operates from a 666,000sq.ft state of the art factory in HangZhouwhich includes its own in-house weaving, stitching and laminating facilities is well primed to satisfy.  He says: “One of the joys of working with the Chinese company, apart from the fact that it produces really top notch materials, is that it is always eager to provide just the right products for the European marketand encourages us to provide it with as much customer feedback and information about all of the latest trends in visual communication as we can.” He adds that the company’s partnerships with its European suppliers are similarly collaborative, with all parties keen to keep tabs on the increasingly diverse activities of sign and print companies.

Closer to home, Mark and Andrew are planning to make it even easier for customers to order everything they need from Soyang, while also inspiring them to work smarter rather than harder. Mark concludes: “With so many material options now available, there has never been a better time for sign and print companies to use their creativity and ingenuity to establish new areas of application and when they do, we are more than happy to help them in their quest to ensure that they have every surface covered!”

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