Mon, 24 Aug 2020
Making the most of the assets it already had has helped one Newbury company weather the coronavirus storm. And its ability to evolve quickly has opened up a host of new opportunities.
Hambridge Lane-based Kremer Signs has also invested in new equipment to enable it to meeting the growing demand for acrylic dividers and protection screens.
And it is now an approved supplier in the Government’s coronavirus online catalogue.
One of the people steering the company through these unprecedented times was sales and marketing manager Tom Cummuskey.
Thirty-year-old Tom (pictured below) grew up in Newbury. He went to Kennet School, Thatcham, staying on at sixth form to complete his A-levels in graphics, business studies and art.
“I had taken art at GCSE too and was always interested in that side of things,” he says.
“So when the opportunity arose at Kremer Signs, it really suited everything I had been studying.
“I joined there straight from school and have been there for 11 years now.
“I joined in a sales role and then it evolved into a marketing one, where I could utilise my graphics too.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing how the company has evolved.”
Tom now oversees the company’s marketing strategy, which allows his creative side to really shine through.
He is responsible for the exhibitions and trade shows the company attends, as well as adverts, magazines and interviews like this one.
The company was founded 40 years ago by Richard Kremer and Steve Gosney, predominantly making sale boards for estate agents.
Although it has now diversified, it still works with all the estate agents across Berkshire and has around 70 per cent of the UK market.
Operating out of a garage, the two men worked with local estate agents, signwriting by hand and then going out to put up the boards themselves.
Eventually, they moved to a unit in New Greenham Park, where they began using screen printing; although still a very manual process, it increased their capacity significantly and the company began working with other estate agents across the South East, growing their staff to seven to deal with the ever-increasing workloads.
The company began using INCA Spyder printers, which allowed for large format printing.
As it continued to grow, Kremer Signs acquired a Bristol-based firm, as well as buying premises in Sleaford, Lincolnshire.
This new printing facility, which is still home to the company’s screenprinters today, gave them a base further north to help with UK distribution.
Further growth prompted a move to new offices in Hambridge Lane three years ago.
It was at this time that the company also upgraded its printers to Canon Arizona wide format printers – an investment of around £500,000.
“There are only a handful of these printers in the country,” Tom explains. “It gave us the capacity to print quickly, allowing us to offer quicker lead times.
“We can also print on different materials so could start offering things such as window graphics and floor graphics.
“Around 75 per cent of our work is still fascia signage, estate agent boards and window displays.
“Towards the end of 2019, Brexit did play a part in the slowdown of the market, but it did start to pick up again in January. But then the coronavirus happened in March and it was a massive setback.”
But the company would not be beaten and although things got very tough – it was forced to furlough a number of staff – it started thinking straight away about how it could diversify.
“We haven’t had to make any redundancies and we are now back to full capacity, with everyone off furlough,” Tom says.
“We did that by diving into social distancing signage.
“The housing market was one of the first industries that the Government allowed back and so we had to move quickly to provide what they needed – pavement signs, floor graphics, Perspex desk pods, hand sanitiser units.
“That was a massive thing for us because we could produce the majority of it in-house, but we have never dealt with Perspex before and we didn’t have the machinery.
“So we invested £20,000 in an acrylic heat bending machine and we spent all night calling around suppliers trying to get the materials.
“We wanted to produce the screens but it was very difficult to get the materials.
“Eventually we managed to secure a large stock from a company in Sweden.
“It was all very quick and risky to get involved but we wanted to do it and it’s been a risk worth taking.”
The firm has now been able to produce screens and graphics for local councils, shops, restaurants, pubs and opticians locally, as well as securing a contract with Moto Service Stations for its social distancing signage.
Kremer Signs was able to offer a quick turn-around for items such as floor graphics, customer flow signage and coronavirus related posters, which was key for Moto, for all of its 65 service stations across the UK.
The company’s CCS (Crown Commerical Services) status means it has been given the Government-approved artwork that can be used on all NHS posters. This includes general symptoms checkers, hand washing signs and direction posters for coronavirus testing centres.
“It has been a great way of using the machines we had and the products we stocked,” Tom adds. “When I joined, estate agents boards was still 95 per cent of the work we provided.
“We’re now producing a large and diverse range of different types of signage to all sectors from Newcastle to St Austell.”