A year ago PressOn did a deal with South African designer and photographer Robin Sprong to manufacture and distribute his wallpaper collection in the UK. So how difficult has it been to get the project in front an interiors market where the PSP was an unknown?
“We kept hearing how interiors was the new future for digital print, and we knew that we were very interested in entering this market. But between us we had very limited knowledge of the sector. Interior design is a fairly closed world and at first we really struggled to work out with how we could be part of it.” So says Nigel Webster, joint founding PressOn in Kent, who’s fortuitous meeting with South African designer and photographer Robin Sprong at Heimtextil last year led to the company getting into the world of wallpapers. Or rather, it led to PressOn agreeing to produce and market Sprong’s wallpaper collection under license here in the UK. Actually getting the interiors people to buy into the concept was another challenge.
Having spent rather heavily on a re-brand, new website, PR and marketing support in recent years, both Webster and joint managing director Andy Wilson understood the financial commitment PressOn would need to make to launch a new wallpaper brand in the UK, but they were also convinced it was an untapped opportunity available to them. Both also realised there was a lack of awareness of the existing PressOn brand in the interiors world, but neither did they feel that beginning again and creating a new brand through which to sell wallpaper was the right direction to take. They also considered whether stretching the PressOn brand to encompass a wallpaper product could work, but felt that could alienate the company’s existing customer base, and might present a confusing message to current clients, especially online.
The debate continued, with how they should source content and designs for wallpaper products, spending time looking at image and photo libraries and considering working directly with designers themselves.
Eventually Webster and Wilson commissioned a report on the commercial and retail interiors market and wallpaper competitors in the UK, investigated the possible pitfalls of entering this new marketplace, and used PressOn’s connections (as a key Latex user) at HP to broaden their understanding of a sector HP was actively encouraging PSP’s to enter. But all in all, PressOn admits that if found it difficult to find the type of data it sought to support its launch into this arena.
Thoughts returned of working with Sprong and his established team of international designers at RSW (Robin Sprong Wallpaper) that were well-known in the interiors design community - Sprong had won both the Elle Decoration International Design Award and Elle Decoration Designer of the Year in South Africa.
Sprong also had joint ventures in Australia, Germany and Holland, and was already well versed in working under a license agreement arrangement with other companies. So a few fact finding Skype calls between PressOn and Sprong followed, where shared experiences of growing a business organically and similar entrepreneurial spirits were demonstrated. The outcome was the arrangement announced a year ago.
Once contracts were signed, a considerable investment was made by PressOn to engage a specialist interiors PR in the UK to promote the Robin Sprong brand. Work on the PressOn website and on the RSW website followed. The media response to the Robin Sprong brand has been phenomenal, with coverage in the national and specialist interior design and architecture press. But media interest is one thing, actual sales is another.
Asked how this collaboration works on a day-to-day basis, Webster says: “In essence it’s down to flexibility and co-operation. We had no blueprint or pre-defined business plan for how this could work, and neither did Robin. We regularly meet over Skype and work by being very open and sharing our print experiences and this way we learn from each other. Robin is great - very easy to work with and prepared to have faith in what we’re doing here. We have helped him to source new substrates and change some of the production processes for his work in South Africa. He in turn has made a number of introductions to potential clients for us in the UK.”
Strong has visited the UK and spent some time with the PressOn team in Chatham. Both sides say this time was invaluable as general conversation over a few days enabled them to learn so much about key market difference in buying behaviours around the world and customer’s expectations of wallpaper products. Future plans for this year include exhibiting at a number of UK based design exhibitions and further visits from Sprong to the UK to help build his brand here.