Stephen Davies, Southsea Deckchairs
Southsea Deckchairs has invested in a Mimaki TS100-160 dye sublimation paper transfer printer from CMYUK. It joins a Klieverik heat press and will be used for the printing of deckchair slings, printed interior and exterior fabrics, parasols, sun loungers, stools, bags, windbreakers, and more. The installation of this equipment is significant as it ends the company’s reliance on external printing contractors.
The 1.6m wide transfer paper printer was installed in February ready for the 2023 season at the company’s premises in Portsmouth. “The benefits of the equipment creep up on you gradually and three months on I still have moments of surprise with what it does,” says owner and MD, Stephen Davies. “It’s just magical when you see work going through the Mimaki and then on to the Klieverik. It really makes me smile,” he says.
From Southsea to the World
Now the most famous deckchair manufacturer in the world, the business was founded in 1991 by Stephen, a former deckchair attendant working on Southsea Beach, Hampshire. To begin with, the company was building traditional deckchairs by hand, using a striped polyethylene for the sling seating that it was buying in. However, after Stephen’s wife Roma joined in 1998, the business moved to the next level.
“Roma’s got a good eye for fabrics and a really good business head. We used to buy lots of different fabrics from France, America, wherever - and customers really liked the variety,” says Stephen.
The family business has grown organically expanding its product lines and supplying not just all resorts in the UK but also prestigious events including the Henley Regatta, Glyndebourne and The National Trust. It exports globally and has long-term resellers in France, Norway and Spain. Over the years too, it has collaborated with high profile British brands Clarks Shoes and Fred Perry.
The print factor
An order from Boddington’s Beers requesting branded promotional deckchairs in the mid 90s, kickstarted the business’ relationship with printing, which initially was a screen-printing process. All printing was outsourced until 2021 when the company purchased a digital printer for its vinyl work.
Bringing digital sublimation printing in-house was a slow-burn decision. Stephen and Roma started exploring the idea four years ago but were advised by a third party to reconsider. “That put us back by a couple of years, but I suppose the drum kept beating and we decided to take another look. I received some marketing from CMYUK about an upcoming Open House event and went up to Shrewsbury for a demo,” says Stephen.
“Everything pointed to buying a 1.6m wide printer and a Klieverik heat press. It really was a leap in the dark for us. We were concerned about space requirements and whether our mezzanine could structurally cope with both pieces of equipment. Would the inks give off an odour? Would we need additional staff to run it as we’re quite seasonal – we’re at peak production for four months a year, so what about the rest of the time? We were going to have the equipment installed last February, but in the end, we decided to wait for this February. We just weren’t quite ready before,” he says.
The Klieverik was purchased second hand from a private buyer. Brett Platt, CMYUK’s Textile Business Manager who is also a heat press expert (CMYUK is a distributor of the Klieverik Vertex) visited the company to check the pre-owned heat press and provide guidance and tips on its usage and maintenance.
“Our experience with CMYUK has been very good. Tim Boore [Senior Digital Sales Consultant] was brilliant and not at all pushy. Brett Platt visited us and helped with the heat press even though we didn’t buy it from them,” says Stephen.
Happily, all Stephen’s initial fears have been put to rest and all logistical issues resolved painlessly. The vinyl printer operator now operates the new equipment in a seamless move, and installation of equipment up onto the mezzanine went ahead without mishap.
The Mimaki TS100-160 features two newly developed print heads and offers high quality, high productivity, and stable performance. It operates at roughly twice the speed of conventional textile printers.
“There is a noticeable improvement on the brightness and sharpness of colour. Everything is much punchier and more vibrant. We’re also managing our workflow so much better now. We’ve got a really good rhythm. The new equipment has certainly helped to boost morale. The process has become much more creative, interesting and pleasurable. When demands are thrown at us, we just get on with it and get the work done. We have very happy customers and that’s a good feeling, “ he says.
CMYUK materials supply
The business is now using a variety of materials from CMYUK including an eco-linen with inherent FR characteristics, a long way from the unprintable polyethylene slings from the 90s. It also uses canvas products at different weights for a variety of applications. Parasols and cushions have joined the line-up of new items with more to follow.
The business has already had enquiries about trade work beyond beach/outdoor related products that will ease out the seasonal nature of the business.
Says Stephen, “I’m just delighted and relieved everything works.”
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