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Northern Flags strikes it lucky with CMYUK

Northern Flags strikes it lucky with CMYUK

“It hit Europe before it hit us,” observed FaberExposize UK and Northern Flags Managing Director, Iain Clasper-Cotte. He explained: “We were in conversation with many of our German and Dutch colleagues and saw the arrangements that they were making, and they also told us what changes their competitors were making too, so we started a conversation with CMYUK quite early on, which stood us in good stead.” 

The Leeds-based Northern Flags (also known as FaberExposize UK to its larger clients) has been producing high-quality custom flags, banners, soft signage, fabric printing, and all other aspects of digital wide-format printing to some of the world’s largest companies and brands for over 30 years.  Like so many other UK sign and print companies it started 2020 on a high, only to fall off a cliff, albeit temporarily, in April.

Working with CMYUK, clients, and with the timely addition of a new marketing team that luckily, it had just hired, Northern Flags turned the situation around, essentially switching from roll-to-roll fabric printing to providing COVID-19 safety signage, which involved producing a large quantity of floor graphics plus PPE equipment.

Iain continued: “We’ve got as many wide-format UV printers as we have fabric printers, although under normal circumstances the fabric printers are the busiest, but now, due to COVID-19, it’s the other way around.”

The relationship between Northern Flags and CMYUK is a comparatively new one. Just over a year ago, Northern Flags began to migrate to CMYUK for its textiles due to quality issues it had experienced with its previous suppliers. CMYUK Key Account Manager, Damien Clarke was instrumental in guiding Northern Flags towards greater levels of quality, consistency, and choice.

“Damien understood our company really well and immediately recognised the potential for CMYUK, so we didn’t get into prolonged negotiations. He was very efficient about providing sample rolls so we could get all testing done very quickly. The whole situation was easy and from the very beginning it felt like a partnership rather than a sales process,” said Iain.

Prior to COVID-19, the relationship between the two companies was already building momentum with Damien supporting Northern Flags through long tenders by advising on new materials.  So when Lockdown hit, its not surprising that the company once again turned to CMYUK to supply large volumes of floor graphic materials.

Iain recalled: “COVID-19 went from no toilet rolls to no floor graphics, but I have to say we managed to keep on top of things. We didn’t lose any orders because of non-supply. Damian was really honest with us and he always delivered, everything always arrived on time, which allowed us to manage client expectations and our sales force more effectively.”

Another key observation Iain made during Lockdown was how the mind set of a supplier can affect good customer relations.

He went on: “We felt right from the start that CMYUK had a different attitude to selling high demand substrates without profiteering. We felt that a number of other suppliers were capitalising on the stock they had available and we weren’t prepared to enter into those kinds of trading relations.

“With CMYUK we found that what we were paying was fair, which, in turn, enabled us to be fair with our clients. During this period we started working with a number of new clients and we feel pretty confident that these relationships will be long-term because they feel as if they’ve had good value in the same way that we feel we’ve had good value from CMYUK, which is how the supply chain works best.”

Previously, in common with many other sign and print companies, Northern Flags only produced floor graphics every now and again, but Iain confided: “By God, we know them so well now!”

And now that customers have seen how easy floor graphics are to apply and remove, he believes that they may well become a more permanent part of the mainstream marketing mix.

But while social distancing is still in place and guidance from the government continues to be unclear, signage, believes Iain, has to work twice as hard.

He cited a retail client that had to revise a campaign 18 times in order to keep up with government messaging and then, just as large volumes of two-metre distancing signage were being delivered, the government advice changed again.

He has also identified a possible problem. He said: “A lot of people now feel that signage doesn’t apply to them, which is a real issue for both retailers and offices, which are going to have to be even more creative and innovative in how they construct and present the signage in their buildings.”

With Lockdown easing, what’s in store for Northern Flags in the future?

Iain revealed: “We’re looking hard at where we need to be focusing our energies. We’ve invested a lot of money in this factory and we’ve got a great team. It will require a lot of agility and flexibility in order to succeed but, as we’ve already demonstrated, we’re more than up to the job. Everything looks so different now from the start of the year but together with our customers and suppliers, we are ready for the next lot of challenges!”

For further information on Northern Flags, visit: www.northernflags.com

For further information on CMYUK, visit: www.cmyuk.com

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