Printed Banners and Signs Ltd (PBS) - Business case study

Change of direction for Malvern based signage manufacturer

PBS

Partners Alice Fox and Carl Murphy run Malvern based Printed Banners and Signs Ltd (PBS). Established in 2001, PBS is a sign writing and manufacturing company, specialising in bespoke print and signage products. The company offers a full project management service from initial advice and measurement to printing, fabrication and installation.

At the start of the lockdown the company closed for almost a month, furloughing the majority of staff. With up to 50% of the company’s revenue typically generated through events signage, the firm was in a precarious position. With continued uncertainty over the events market, PBS needed to radically re-think its business strategy. It was at this point that Alice and Carl noticed the similarity between event signage and COVID-19 protection products and decided to voluntarily produce face visors for clinical staff. This gave them an insight into a new potential market.

They have since decided to diversify and now manufacture a diverse range of COVID-19 protection products. These include a range of transparent anti-bacterial protective screens, branded sanitiser stations, face visors and other social distancing products including floor graphics and health and safety signage. At little cost, customers can order personalised safety products with company branding and logos.

“We have completely adapted our business as a result of COVID-19 to provide protective signage, as it is in such high demand at the moment. We have rapidly built a reputation for supplying a full suite of COVID-19 protection products for new and existing clients” Alice Fox, Sales and Marketing Director at PBS.

The adaptation of the business has not been without its challenges, including sourcing suitable materials (acetate and acrylic). After some hunting around, Alice and Carl managed to find several reliable suppliers. The company also struggled to purchase a new acrylic bending machining. Refusing to let this delay matters, co-owner Carl, decided to design and build one himself. This has enabled PBS to expand its product range and continue to meet growing demand for COVID-19 products. May 2020 was the company’s busiest month ever. This success can be attributed to the company’s size and agility and having the right machinery in place, including CNC machines, flat-bed printers and laminators. Alice claimed,

“As we are a relatively small team, we have been able to diversify quickly into new areas, drawing on our company ethos of being reliable, responsive and great problem solvers. Another factor to explain our success has been the speed of service we are able to offer. It has been all hands on-deck in recent weeks and we are able to provide a full service from quotation to installation in 24-48 hours.”

PBS now has many new customers in multiple sectors including over 20 schools, local councils and many hospitality businesses, providing protective barriers and signage for re-openings as the lockdown restrictions ease. The firm has also secured a major contract with a facilities management company. 

“Not having our eggs all in one basket has been important and allowed us to remain profitable even though the events industry has stalled”.  Alice Fox, Sales and Marketing Director at PBS signage

With six staff currently, the firm is thinking about taking on new employees to meet demand. Alice admits it is hard to predict how long customers will require protective measures but is cautiously optimistic about the future. “It does feel like change is coming.  We are starting to see glimmers of hope as people are now refreshing their frontages in time for re-opening and adding graphics to their vehicles”. To maximise on the growth the company has been experiencing, Alice successfully applied to Worcestershire’s Elevate programme. Although Elevate started just before the COVID-19 outbreak, Alice has been pleased with the quick transition to virtual delivery and concluded by say that “being on the Elevate programme and interacting with the Worcestershire support network should be really good for us as we look to expand the business.”

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