Buying up other businesses didn’t feature on ABC Photosign’s radar but the Auckland-based company has recently purchased two related companies.

Don Matheson, managing director at ABC Photosigns, says the company took advantage of opportunities that came its way in order to shore up its current business and to expand its reach.

He says, “Most of our business comes from real estate signage and marketing material. We print everything and we install the signage as well.

“Graeme Thompson, who owned Real Estate Signs, was looking to retire from the business. He said, ‘Are you interested in buying us out?’

Matheson and his father Bill looked at the offer and, after completing due diligence, made the decision to purchase Real Estate Signs. Bill Matheson says, “Our plans to expand the business may not have involved buying another business but we could see the synergies there and it presents as a workable way of growing your business.”

Don Matheson adds, “Real Estate Signs made a perfect fit for us. We offer

a complete service to real estate agents. We manage all the signs and installations. Of course they get access to all of our print solutions as well.”

For ABC Photosigns, opportunity soon knocked twice. He says, “We had only just finished our decision to purchase Real Estate Signs, when we got a call from Ian Shephard from Shephard Dunphy. He said that Original Print had gone into liquidation. Would we be interested in buying it?”

Original Print, formerly called Original Screen, had fallen on some hard times after once taking out the Pride In Print supreme

award eight years ago. The wide format company presented ABC Photosigns with the chance to expand its offering to its clients and to show that offering to new clients.

Matheson says, “I guess you could say that it was a no-brainer but we still had to look at what we were getting with Original Print. For instance, we weren’t really looking at screen printing and Original Print has a giant Thieme 5070 colour screen printer that needed a lot of work done, and money spent, on it.

“But, when we looked at the possible synergies involved, it became clear that placing Real Estate Signs and Original Print with what we had going on at ABC Photosigns could work. For example, many of Original Print’s customers wanted HP Indigo work. They could see the quality inherent in HP Indigo, so straight away that brought a good complement.”


WHILE the Mathesons can see the synergies inherent in combining the two businesses they purchased with ABC Photosigns, they understand the challenges ahead.

Don Matheson says, “Original Print has mainly served a POP type market and ABC covers a POS type of market. The two can go hand in hand but you need to get the culture similar between the two companies. So it becomes very much a case of imparting the DNA of ABC Photosigns into ABC Original Print.”

That means working with the staff at both companies. They now employ about 74 staff members. He says, “The positive challenges involve giving the staff a better understanding of what they have got to work with and to look forward to. They are enjoying the adaptation to the ABC culture. It is a breath of fresh air, having gone from a company that was in liquidation to a company that is strong.”

The companies share similar customer bases. For example, both do car wraps. He says, “Original Print’s presentation-type work, POP work, clients also want POS work. Also, Original Print had a good name for quality and we believe in delivering first class printed products so customers have a good idea of what they can expect.”

A few years ago, we reported how ABC Photosigns had moved to HP Indigo presses. Matheson says, “The HP Indigo Digital Press is our flagship press. Since installing it, we have redefined the quality benchmark in the Real Estate business with the HP Indigo machines.”

The company wants to apply that same concept to business it gains through Real Estate Signs and Original Print. He says, “What we are doing now is leveraging the HP Indigo technology to the new areas of our business. It’s a simple fact that many customers now want HP Indigo quality and, having that capability means we can provide superlative service to our customers.”

Matheson keeps up with technology. He says, “If you get left behind, you will lose clients. We value our relationship with Currie Group, which allows us to tie everything in together. We are always looking for an edge.

“At drupa, I downloaded the HP PrintOS App. This App tells us how our machine is running in comparison with other HP machines around the world. With PrintOS, we can print the same file anywhere in the world. It goes right across our HP machines. So we can use the same file for these different machines, using PrintOS. The client can get 24/7 access to all their information.”

He has also stepped up the capabilities at Original Print. He says, “We bought an HP 11000 wide format printer to replace what was in there. It’s a matter of tying things in with what we have, especially the quality and performance levels. Of course, until now, we have not been able to give our customers a screen printed product. Even though our digital product reaches a high level, the screen print is different.

So now the company’s list of wide format solutions includes six HP360s, one HP 750; the new HP 11000; and HP 270 grand format; and three Esko cutting tables.

He says, “With Original Print and Real Estate Signs, I guess you could say we have added another string to our bow. We fully intend to make the most of the opportunities they present.”

Bill Matheson adds, “For us, both the purchases, Real Estate Signs and Original Print, represent kind of unplanned pregnancies. You never know when one opportunity will come along, let alone two opportunities, so you have to make the most of them and we will do just that.”

A Currie Group showroom

CURRIE GROUP supplies a comprehensive range of print solutions to the New Zealand market and ABC Photosigns has taken advantage of its depth.

Among the finishing equipment it uses is a Foliant laminator; a Horizon BQ 280PUR Perfect Binder; and a Horizon RD-4055 rotary die cutter. Graham McDonald says, “The RD-4055 will do perfing, folding, and cutting. It is ideal for low volume packaging as well as anything from customer folders, customer cards, and pharmaceutical high end products.” ABC Photosigns also runs a Horizon SPF-200L bookletmaker and an HT-30 trimmer.

Don Matheson says, “We often call the place a Currie Group Showroom, we have so many of their machines. We got these machines because we needed to keep the processes in house. It means we can keep control of the work. Another important factor in keeping the work in house is that, in the real estate market, we have a quick turnaround; we can’t afford to send the work away.”

ABC Photosigns installed a Scodix S74 at the end of last year. Once again, it came from Currie Group. Don Matheson says, “We bought it to enhance the services we offer to our market. We like to always lead the market and we found that we needed to have something more interesting to offer and the Scodix fitted that requirement. It offers more. You can’t get the same tactile feel in other embellishments. In fact, this Scodix machine will actually print braille, which is high off the page.”

Graham McDonald, sales manager at Scodix supplier Currie Group, says, “The Scodix is a premium embellishment machine worldwide. Scodix challenges your senses. The tactile nature of the embellishments adds a fresh dimension to printed products.

“The Scodix helps redefine the quality of the printed product. The added value of its digitally enhanced products means premium pricing can be charged, even for short runs. Scodix had 100 new customers at drupa.”

Matheson says, “It gives our customers the opportunity to take advantage of their customers’ sense of touch. It also enables us to do packaging.”

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