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Getting creative with cardboard

Showcard is on the scent of something good according to MD Mark Smith. Here’s how the company is refocusing to take advantage of structural print opportunities.

Two years ago Mark Smith became MD of Showcard. His thinking then, and his thinking now, is that “something needs to change” following what he describes as an “annus horribilis’ from mid 2016 to mid 2017 due to “a challenging high street situation and competitor activity [aka price cutting] affecting some major clients”. His response? To refocus the Letchworth-based business with an onus on strengthening its structural print capability.

At the end of 2018, structural print - or cardboard engineering as it’s so oft called - accounted for 30-35% of the company’s digital, screen and litho total £18m turnover. By the end of 2020 Smith expects it to be 50% of a larger £22-23m turnover, a strategic plan that has seen Showcard form a specialist structural design team and significant kit and software investment as well as undergoing something of a rebrand.

“I’ve been part of Showcard for many years, and was part of the MBO team in 2012 at which time I was sales and marketing director. For a long time we had a great track record retaining blue-chip clients, and we didn’t have the capacity anyway to take on new ones. But our annus horribilis proved we needed to increase and reshape our customer-base,” says Smith, pointing out that “when you’ve got clients who have been customers for a decade things run like clockwork. But we realised that to reach new ones we had to have a much more proactive approach.”

That approach has involved a £3m spend that will help Showcard build on its structural print capability. “We’ve been involved in this type of work for years, but realised we should focus on it more, believing there is significant new business to be won if we embrace the opportunity. Not everyone can do it so there’s more value in it. And brands are beginning to see the value in things like constructed POS,” says Smith, who oversaw the installation in May 2018 of an Onset X3 with robotic arm - to replace an Onset S70 - and which joined an Onset S50 and Durst Rho 512R. The company also installed an Elitron TAV cutter last autumn, has doubled its mounting capacity, upgraded its Tharstern MIS system and improved its workflows and structural design capabilities. 

Money too has been spent by Showcard on getting the right people in the right places to advance its structural print development programme. In November last year Dona Escandell was appointed head of structural design, a new position with a remit, as Smith explains, “to integrate the structural design function and capability into Showcard’s manufacturing workflow to improve efficiency and effectiveness, and to deliver class leading, award winning, structural designs to a bigger base of brand and retail clients”.

Escandell - previously of Delta and DS Smith - “is really the first piece in our new structure jigsaw. She has a dedicated team of structural designers, some of whom were already here but others who came in at the start of 2019, and she instantly upped our game,” says Smith. In terms of customer reach, he points out that “a team of account directors together with the business development director and myself will maintain existing client relationships and look to develop new ones.”

Another relatively new hire, Chris Burniston, who joined Showcard as marketing and communications manager in April 2018, also has his part to play in this strategy. “His remit is to get the message out about what we can now do, and grow our profile,” says Smith. “Key retailers didn’t really know what we did before, even though we have great capability. 

“Since becoming MD the strategy has been to refocus Showcard. As well as investing in structural print that has included rebranding, undertaking marketing for the first time in our history, developing our website, moving our sales office to a more modern set-up that is more engaging for clients to visit, and where we’ll have a proper applications display of what we can deliver. 

“2019 will see us continue to invest in key additional large-format digital print kit - a continuing process - as we embrace new opportunities.”

 

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