In the first ‘Your View’ feature of 2012, Peter French, Projects Manager, at SignTec Ltd Signmakers in Chelmsford, Essex, questions the Olympics’ promise to regenerate local businesses in London and the South East.
“As we get ever closer to the opening of the London Games, I'm surprised that I haven't had people beating a path to my door for signs and advertising. Didn't someone say that these games would be good for London and the South East?
Well, I'm in the South East and I've not even seen a glimmer of even the smallest bit of Olympic signage work.
Has anyone in the South East managed to secure any business from the Olympics? I know that one company in Southend managed to pick up some work on the Mountain Bike course, but where is the rest of it?
Didn't I hear that half the world’s population would be descending on this country and how tourism, the arts, sport and the hot food vendors would benefit? Surely this would have generated plenty of work for all the local sign and display businesses?
For anyone that tried to register with the Olympic organisers, you have my sympathy. The process was so complicated and protracted; I must admit that I lost interest before the end of the questionnaire.
What these people don't realise is that a small signmaker like us doesn't have spare resources who can sit at a desk all day filling out forms, working through accreditations, talking to lawyers and accountants. We're SIGNMAKERS! We make signs. That is how we earn a living. We're not big corporations with teams of administrators. In fact, gone are the days when you could afford to employ someone for holiday cover, let alone spend the day filling out numerous (pointless?) forms.
To my mind, the only winner in this game is the franchise business. This is where the franchise holders can really benefit. They will have the franchisor working on their behalf to secure work relating to the Olympics and then share out the work to local businesses. They will get their share in the commissions, so it’s a win-win situation.
But the little signmaker doesn't really stand a chance. Yes, we've spoken to people; Yes, we've put our name around; Yes, we’ve given away products in the right areas to be noticed, but sadly, still no Olympic work.
Business rates are about to go up and the price of diesel will be the highest ever in a day or so. Our landlord is about to increase rent from April and the price of materials seems to keep going up every time we order. We were going to upgrade our Anapurna, but the proposed £25K trade in last year is only £10K this year. Our overdue accounts book is growing and even the price of a bacon sandwich at the local snack bar has increased by 7p, so there’s no solace there either.
I don't mean to sound down-hearted, but what on earth is going on? Shouldn't every small business at least get a crack at some Olympic funding? It’s our taxes that pay for it, so isn't it right to get something back?
It also begs the question: where exactly is the Olympic signage work actually going then, if not to the local businesses? My guess is that whilst the local sign trade businesses have been overlooked, the majority of the work has gone up North - where the rates and rent are a fraction of what they are in the South East, and consequently, the price of products is significantly less...
Anyway, that’s enough ranting from me. I must press on if I am to get home before 8 tonight.”
About Peter French: Peter has been working in the sign industry for 9 years having spent a lifetime in IT. Specialising in kick-starting businesses, Peter worked in many diverse business sectors. For most of the time at Signtec he has been at the forefront of large format printing with both solvent and UV technologies.