Mercer Exhibitions forges forward with a Mimaki JFX-200 and Kongsberg X-24 cutter from CMYUK

Brenton Mercer, owner and Managing Director of Mercer Exhibitions
Brenton Mercer, owner and Managing Director of Mercer Exhibitions

The timing of the installation has made the difference between business closure and future success

Brenton Mercer, owner and Managing Director of Mercer Exhibitions knows he’s a lucky man. He invested in a Mimaki JFX 200-2513 UV flatbed and Esko Kongsberg X-24 automatic cutting table from CMYUK in December last year to ensure greater control of his exhibitions work.

Yet as we all know, just a few weeks later, everything changed, and Mercer Exhibitions, like hundreds of print businesses the UK over has had to adapt to the changing market. 

“You couldn’t have dreamt it really how these machines have ended up working for us. In a nutshell without this equipment, we would have been in a position to strongly consider closing the business, but because of this new investment in the Mimaki and Esko X-24, I’ve been able to create new brands, which in a very short space of time have ended up being as profitable, if not more than what we were originally doing,” says Brenton.

Exhibitions and beMatrix

Breton set up Mercer Exhibitions in 2014 with no experience in the sector – but a colossal amount of entrepreneurial zeal.  A month in from handing in his notice at his then unrelated day job, he delivered his first exhibitions stand at the NEC, Birmingham.

Very early on Mercer Exhibitions became involved with beMatrix, the modular stand building manufacturer, and owns a substantial amount of the aluminium framework and LED video wall stock.

Following substantial investment in beMatrix in 2017, Mercer Exhibitions went into phase 2 of its development – rebranding the company, building a team of 14, and establishing beMatrix holdings in the US, China and Germany – all part of an ambitious strategy to handle events and exhibitions anywhere around the world. The company also established further partnerships with wide format print houses in the UK to supply its exhibition print work.

 “All printing work was outsourced but I always had it in mind, to bring it in house, not just to reduce costs, but to control the quality of everything and try to facilitate last minute projects,” says Brenton.

A subsequent meeting with Sue Hayward, Sales Director, CMYUK at Sign and Digital in Birmingham began a conversation that eventually led to the purchase of the UV flatbed and the digital cutter.

“We needed the printer but at the time I didn't think we necessarily needed a digital cutting table. The reason being that all our Foamex panels were cut to size by a local supplier but after watching the Esko in action at the show, and talking with Sue, it was quite obvious how we could expand, given the potential of the machine. We’re trying to gain advantage over our competitors, and the X24 is one of the ways in which we could do it. I'm sure when exhibitions come back that will still stand,” he says.

Next phase

Covid changed everything. With the exhibitions industry flat lining for now, Brenton said goodbye to ten out of fourteen staff members as he set about reinventing the company powered by his latest equipment investment.

“We had no option but to lay people off. The new areas of business that we began to work in are not massively design or labour intensive,” he says.

The first new venture was www.screenwarehouse.co.uk, an online store for off-the-shelf Perspex screens and office dividers. So far the company has output over 10,000 of these screens to a multitude of industries from schools to laboratories to car showrooms and everything in between.

It is set to become a permanent safeguarding brand that will reach beyond the immediate pandemic concerns. Brenton is currently working on a number of new products in the background that will be launched shortly to his newly found customer base.

“Whether it's selling different types of signage, the more interesting stuff developed around Track and Trace or whatever else, our new machines have given us a platform to be able to do it all,” he says.

Customised homewares

mpgo (www.mpgo.co.uk) is another online business that was launched at the start of October to a very positive reception. Here artists can upload and sell their artwork as acrylic posters. So far the company has twenty artists signed up to the site, and each time they sell a product, they receive 10% commission with 1% being donated to mental health charity MIND.

Ever the entrepreneur, Brenton is in talks with major league football clubs to come on-board with their visual merchandising, and is due to begin trials with an as yet unnamed club for the next six months.

This is just a stating point. Long term, mpgo will develop into a hub where surface designers are put in touch with manufacturers. Today it might be about acyclic posters but medium term plans are to expand into décor and interiors – any homeware products that can be customised.

Brenton has a clear roadmap of how this will evolve. “The first stage is to develop the range and bring brands on board like football clubs. The next phase will be to buy additional machines that will service all these other elements, and then once we've developed the range and we can deliver all that in house, we’ll work with other production houses to scale it up,” he says.

Despite these new developments, Brenton hasn’t given up on exhibitions. Last year the company’s international enterprises delivered several projects in Las Vegas and the same amount in China.

“We've got to be realistic, and that's why we're putting energy into the other ventures,” says Brenton.  “I'm not expecting events to kick off again even by this time next year, but when it comes back, we’ve got the equipment here, which we’ll be utilising, and picking up from where we left off.”

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