Established companies cannot afford to rest on their laurels. At times there is a need to modernise, embrace new technologies and develop new marketing strategies. One company currently going through such a change is Stuart Canvas Products; a Cheshire based company, which, for the last thirty years, has been supplying ground covering systems to the sports industry.
STUART Canvas Products has a new Chief Executive in Edward Stoddart who took control last November. Edward has worked in the leisure industry for over ten years and is also a keen sportsman, still playing cricket at a local level.
His key task is to ensure Stuart Canvas remains a leading contender in the manufacture and supply of sports surface covering products, with a special focus on raising the company profile and developing new strategies intended to widen their customer base.
Already, a new website and brochure have been launched, and there are plans to bring new and improved products to the market this year.
Stuart Canvas Products was founded in 1975. Originally, the company supplied canvas tarpaulins to the haulage industry but, with the boom in televised sport during the 1980s, the company saw a market for manufacturing and supplying pitch covers for sporting venues.
The company became increasingly involved with a number of sporting venues, developing many innovative products to help protect their surfaces against rain and frost. Examples of their products include the Hover Cover, currently employed at Lord's and Old Trafford, the inflatable tennis covers used at Wimbledon and the veterinary screens used by the majority of racecourses around the UK.
All of their products are manufactured in their factory in Warrington, Cheshire. With a design team on site, and sales agents covering the country, the company are geared to provide their customers with a consistent, reliable service.
On my visit I was able to see what goes on behind the scenes. Whilst on site I witnessed the cleaning process for the 'much used' Wimbledon covers. The company has been supplying the All England Club for over 20 years.
Their service for tennis tournaments is all-inclusive. They manufacture the covers to the required specification and then install them at the tournament venue. They also provide a maintenance service which includes transport, storage and cleaning. This cleaning process can often take up to 40 hours per cover. If properly maintained, a cover can last between 6 and 10 years.
They bespoke manufacture over 200,000 square yards of covers a years! Cricket clubs have also benefited from a wide range of Stuart Canvas products, such as site screens and pitch covers.
The company has also been successful in supplying many Premiership Football Clubs with pitch/frost covers. With more and more clubs having matches abandoned due to waterlogged pitches. the company are now investigating new, simple and effective ways to save a pitch from waterlogging.
Customers have the choice to buy the covers outright, on a lease or long term hire.
Stuart Canvas has been providing frost covers to racecourses for over 15 years. These covers are mostly for the take off and landing areas as well as areas of the course which don't see the sun.
In the past the company did little to promote itself, relying on word of mouth and maintaining their established customer base. Now, they are focusing on brand awareness and making their products more accessible to a wider market place. They see the junior club sector of the sports turf industry as one that has been overlooked.
The company has clients in such far flung corners of the world as the West Indies, Australia, Canada and South Africa as well as closer to home in Europe.
Since his appointment Edward has increased staff numbers from 17 to 22 to help meet his early targets of raising the profile and improving the efficiency of the company. Investment has been made in R&D, with particular emphasis on increasing the longevity of the products and extending the range available. The company already holds several patents which includes that of the famous Hover Cover.
There are several new products in the pipeline but, for security reasons, they cannot be disclosed. But, what Stuart Canvas can say is that, they are not just in the sports and haulage areas.
Many of the current staff have worked at Stuart Canvas for ten years or more resulting in a multi-skilled, flexible work force capable of undertaking any job at a moments notice.
The factory covers an area in excess of 25,000 square metres. All areas of production and refurbishment is carried out on site including the manufacture of sports covers, haulage covers, cleaning and repairs. Each new cover is manufactured to the clients individual requirements. They will use a variety of manufacturing methods depending on the material specified. This can include welding, stitching and gluing.
The material is sourced from a number of long standing, quality suppliers based throughout Europe.
Edward's aim is to take the company into new market areas whilst, at the same time, enhancing the products available to the sportsturf industry.