Signs Express Chester took the leading franchise in the industry to the roman built city of Chester in 2012.
Covering the areas around Chester, including Deeside, Frodsham and Ellesmere Port, the award-winning branch is responsible for a large amount of the signage visible in the area, winning contracts with prominent companies and organisations.
One such project is with Chester Zoo, which is the most visited zoo in the UK, as well as a conservation and education charity committed to preventing extinction. Chester Zoo is home to 27,000 animals across 125 acres of zoological gardens and boasts a whopping 1.9 million visitors each year. And with that kind of footfall, wayfinding and signage plays a critical role in the smooth running of the zoo and visitor satisfaction, so Chester Zoo teamed up with Signs Express Chester in order to deliver a first-class zoo experience.
“We began partnering with Chester Zoo in 2013,” says Signs Express Chester’s production manager, Tom Lloyd. “It started off as one banner and has grown from there, with Signs Express now their largest signage supplier. We cover everything from educational print by the habitats, to catering signage, wayfinding and cosmetic print to improve the overall appearance of areas of the zoo, including inside some of the habitats.”
A key material that has been used throughout the zoo is the Endutex manufactured Terra Banner, distributed across the UK by Soyang Europe. In 2018, Chester Zoo signed up to become part of a plastic reduction scheme which had a big impact on the way they wanted to move forward with their print requirement.
“As a conservation education charity, we’re always looking for new ways to reduce our footprint on the planet by ensuring the zoo is as sustainable as possible,” comments Fred Howat, senior exhibitions and interpretation officer at Chester Zoo. “This includes the signage, exhibition and marketing material we provide for our visitors across site. We’d been using PVC banners for some time as they were long-lived and also met our budget requirements, however environmentally they didn’t meet our needs, so we began searching for a recyclable option.”
“Through some searches and previous contact with Soyang Europe, we discovered the Terra Banner product, which aligned well with our requirements,” continues Howat. “Our close working relationship with Signs Express Chester allowed us to request they order some in for us to test. For us, those initial test banners proved a hit both in price and durability. They’re lightweight, have great colour and clarity and are simple to install. They’ve since become our standard product for any banner requirements we have around the zoo, with PVC-based signage being gradually phased out.”
Terra Banner is a PVC-free, 220gsm polyester banner with a special resin coating, providing excellent whiteness and colourimetry. “We adopted Terra Banner at the request of Chester Zoo, but it’s fast become a go-to product for us here at Signs Express Chester,” continues Lloyd. “Not only does it have the eco benefits needed for Chester Zoo’s ongoing environmental commitment, but it’s a sign-maker's dream, being easy to print and finish and simple to install. Cutting, fitting and manipulating Terra Banner is very straightforward and it holds its colour brilliantly, even outdoors, which is where much of the print we provide for the zoo is situated.”
As any printer will know, durability is one of the biggest concerns when producing print for outdoor environments, especially where signage is likely to be touched a lot by the public. “I can’t fault the Terra Banner for durability. Its longevity in the outdoor environment has exceeded anything else we’ve used,” maintains Lloyd. “We not only use it for signage, but it is even used as a print substrate for the games the rangers use when they work with young people to educate them about the importance of animal conservation. Its tenacity makes it an option for many out of the box applications.”
Installing print on a regular basis at the zoo makes for a rich and diverse working environment for the Signs Express Chester team. “We have a great relationship with Chester Zoo and it’s quite a privilege to be up close with the animals too,” describes Lloyd. “The giraffes are my favourite and there’s one in particular that always comes over to say hello when I’m installing near its habitat.”
However, this unique installation environment can have its challenges too. Another of Soyang Europe’s environmentally friendly materials, EcoStick, has been used for an ongoing project whereby the optically clear, PVC-free window film is installed outside of and, in some cases, within the animal habitats that have glass frontage.
“The team recently installed EcoStick to the inside of the tortoise habitat glass, which roused some curiosity in the inhabitants,” Lloyd explains. “Thankfully when working in the tortoise habitat the only thing we have to worry about is how well the printed window film will hold up to scratches from their feet, but EcoStick lasts very well and gives a great finish. It is so easy to apply, which has its benefits, not only in getting the job done in good time, but when you’re applying it to the glass exterior of the lion habitat and you’ve got a male lion just inches away from you on the other side of the glass, I’m grateful for the briskness with which I can apply it!”
“It’s been a wonderful opportunity to see how our environmentally friendly materials have been used in such an extraordinary environment,” comments Soyang Europe’s sales and marketing manager, Kerrie-Anne Moore. “Signage is such an important part of the visitor experience and we’re delighted to see how effectively Terra Banner and our other green materials are being used at Chester Zoo.”
“It’s great to see environmentally-friendly products emerging within the signage industry, and as environmental educators it’s even more imperative that the materials we use are sustainable,” concludes Howat. “Soyang Europe’s products have helped us achieve one more step on our route to greater sustainability, which we’ve been able to achieve with Signs Express Chester’s expertise.”