For nearly twenty years, Poppy Signs has served the northwest of England with a complete and comprehensive sign design, build and installation service.
“We try to do things a bit differently,” says Dave McDonald, Managing Director of Poppy Signs, “We sell design, aesthetics and quality in a full wrap-around service that handles all our customers’ signage requirements and challenges. We regularly invest in the professional development of our people, as well as in new equipment, and this has contributed to regular and sustainable growth of the business over many years.”
A key part of Poppy Signs’ success is a focus on delivering the best local solutions. “We have never tried to be a signage company looking to deliver national rollouts. We focus on delivering a comprehensive and customer-focused service to the northwest, covering Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cumbria. We are also developing a range of e-commerce sites on the back of our recent investments, and these will be rolled out over the next 12 months.”
Liyu Hybrid investment
During 2022, and following a period where the company had offered significant help and support to customers during the pandemic, Poppy Signs began looking at making an important investment in new printing technology. “We had an Arizona flatbed, which was a great workhorse, but it had a few years under its belt, and its relatively slow speed was causing a major bottleneck in our workflow. It was time to go to the market for our next printing solution, which we knew would be critical to our business development and what we could deliver for our customers,” says Dave.
With such an important investment, Dave wasn’t leaving anything to chance. “We looked at just about every solution out there and put several machines through their paces. We were looking at 3.2m printing and decided we wanted a hybrid machine to give us the versatility of both flatbed and roll-to-roll for better space management and more flexible working. After several demos and extensive research, we decided to purchase a Liyu Platinum Q3 Hybrid.”
This was a decision not made lightly, as Dave explains, “I’ve known Eddie and the team at Liyu UK for many years as they have previously provided technical support for the Arizona and other machines we have. They gave a great demonstration, but I know that a good demo is never the full story. This was going to be the first of this model sold in the UK, so we needed to put a lot of due diligence into the product and also the brand itself.”
Dave looked to other countries, such as Italy and France, where Liyu is well-established as a major brand in UV printing. “In those countries, Liyu is as big a brand name as anyone! I looked further across other territories, and I quickly saw that even though Liyu didn’t have as familiar a name in the UK, it was clearly a company of real substance, with a huge installed base around the world. I felt it was a matter of time before Liyu established its name in the UK. Over the last year, Eddie and the team have done a great job of getting the name and the products out there, and I don’t think it will be long until Liyu is on most people’s shortlist when looking at UV printing.”
Poppy Signs also had the assurance of Liyu UK’s support and technical pedigree that the company had enjoyed for many years. “Another important element that helped us to mitigate the risk was that we had already dealt with the company for a long time, and what has always stood out is their total commitment to supporting our needs. It doesn’t matter what we asked; they have always done their best to sort us out and help where they can, and I saw no reason why this wouldn’t continue were we to invest in the Liyu printer. As it turned out, we were absolutely right about that. Their support has been brilliant.”
He adds, “It also helped that I took a highly detailed look under the bonnet of the printer and what I found was exceptional build quality. The individual components were excellent, and the whole construction was very solid. The Platinum Q3 is a machine of real substance.”
Working with the new printer
Installation was very straightforward, as the Liyu team spent lots of time with Poppy Signs to make sure everything went smoothly. “It was an easy transition to the Platinum, and Liyu were very helpful throughout. With any new machine, you need to build up a library of standard profiles, so in those first few weeks, we established some standardised settings. The machine has so much flexibility it can be fine-tuned to deliver exactly the right balance of speed and quality. These settings can be preserved for use with specific media and applications, and once we had done these for our most common uses, we were flying.”
In the year since the Liyu Platinum Q3 Hybrid was installed, Poppy Signs has been able to put in place some major changes to its business. Dave explains, “Some applications have really taken off thanks to the Liyu. Wallpaper, in particular, has been transformed. We previously provided narrow-format wallpaper, but now we can offer full-width output that can be installed more easily with fewer drops and far fewer joins. We marketed this very heavily across our customer base, and it has been hugely successful for us. In this area, speed and quality are vitally important, and that is what the Liyu gives us in spades.”
He continues, “We have also increased the amount of print we are providing for promotional events. Our workflow bottleneck has been removed, and we can produce hundreds of square metres of great-quality print quickly and accurately. We rarely use our latex machine now because the Platinum is faster, wider and considerably cheaper to run – both in terms of energy and ink costs.”
On the back of the additional capabilities of the Liyu, Poppy Signs is in the process of launching dedicated e-commerce websites. “Selling online is something we have been working towards for some time, and the Liyu has enabled us to do this. It provides the capacity, production speeds and versatility to allow us to offer a broad range of products that we can sell directly from the websites. Because it is cold LED-cured printing, the Liyu will print to virtually any media with no issues, and this flexibility is what you need for successful online sales. We have been through a discovery process of looking at all sorts of media from many different suppliers to see what we can print on successfully, and the Q3 can handle pretty much all of them,” says Dave.
In conclusion, Dave predicts great things for Poppy Signs and Liyu UK. “This has been such a good investment for us. The Liyu has transformed our business and allowed us to increase markets, revenues and margins. In terms of quality and value, there is nothing that comes near the Liyu printers. I have no doubt that they will soon be one of the mainstream suppliers of UV and digital cutting machines in the UK, just as they are in other countries.”