Leading clothing, footwear and home products retailer Next has revealed how its decision early in 2020 to invest in two new printers from Ricoh helped the business remain operational during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The Ricoh T7210 UV flatbed printer and Ricoh Pro L5160 latex printer were installed at Next's Leicestershire-based reprographics department in March 2020 as part of an effort to bring more print work in house and reduce the number of projects it had been outsourcing, including window displays for its network of 550 stores across the UK and Ireland.
Previously the retailer had been running an EFI H1625 LED wide-format hybrid production printer (also supplied by Ricoh) in its print room, as well as using a Ricoh Ri 100 DTG printer for proofing onto garments. The new Ricoh machines were brought in to open up further print opportunities for the retailer.
"We first discussed investing in new print equipment in December 2019 and, having seen and considered a number of machines, we eventually opted for the Ricohs," says Next Retail's reprographics controller Robert Foote. "As soon as the printers were installed, they were put to work on our more traditional in-store graphics print jobs."
However, the retailer was soon after hit with the news that its physical stores would need to close, in line with UK-wide lockdown measures as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This meant a temporary halt to window and shops display work, but as Foote explained, this presented Next with a new print challenge that incidentally played a key role in it continuing with its online delivery service.
In order for its warehouses to remain open and operational, Next had to ensure that they were running in line with Covid-19 regulations, including installing floor graphics setting out how employees should keep two metres apart and directing staff around one-way systems.
Foote said the new Ricoh machines were able to step up to the task almost immediately, with thousands of floor graphics produced in just a matter of days to ensure disruption to Next's online service was kept to a minimum.
"In the lead up to the first lockdown, I noticed that many supermarkets had begun to install floor graphics, so I decided to get ahead of the game and purchase a lot of vinyl," Foote said. "This meant that when we were asked to create floor graphics for our own warehouses, the Ricoh machines were able to produce this work.
"This was especially crucial as many print companies had shut up shop when the lockdown came into effect and were unable to support us. Thanks to our new Ricoh machines, we were able to produce the graphics we needed and keep our online service running for customers across the UK and Ireland."
When lockdown rules were eventually relaxed, Foote said the attention turned to ensuring its physical stores could reopen safely. As such, the new Ricoh machines were put to work on producing floor graphics such as social distancing markers and directions.
"Thanks to Ricoh's printers, we were able to help ensure the safety of customers and staff when they were inside our shops, as well as guarantee that our shops were operating in line with the strict Covid-19 regulations," Foote said.
With the country now in the midst of a third lockdown, Foote reflects on working with Ricoh throughout what has been a very difficult year for many companies. Foote said that while Next did have to contend with a few logistical teething problems early on in the process, the retailer has been working closely with Ricoh to ensure it is getting the best from the machines.
"The relationship with Ricoh has been great. Moving forwards, we will continue to work in partnership to maximise the quality and variety of output we create with the Ricoh printers."
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