Southsea Deckchairs has invested in a Mimaki TS100-160 dye sublimation paper transfer printer from CMYUK. Its installation will end the company’s reliance on external printing contractors.

The 1.6m wide transfer paper printer was installed at the company’s premises in Portsmouth in February for the upcoming season, where it joins a Klieverik heat press. It will be used for printing deckchair slings, printed interior and exterior fabrics, parasols, sun loungers, stools, bags and windbreaks. 

‘The benefits of the equipment creep up on you gradually and three months on I still have moments of surprise with what it does,’ said owner and managing director, Stephen Davies. ‘It’s just magical when you see work going through the Mimaki and then on to the Klieverik.’

The business was founded in 1991 by Mr Davies, a former deckchair attendant working on Southsea Beach, Hampshire. To begin with, the company built traditional deckchairs by hand using striped polyethylene for the sling seating. However, after Stephen’s wife, Roma, joined in 1998, the business evolved.

‘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,’ remarked Mr Davies. The family business has expanded its product lines from UK resorts and now supplies clients such as the Henley Regatta, Glyndebourne and The National Trust. It has long-term resellers in France, Norway and Spain, and over the years has also collaborated with British brands Clarks Shoes and Fred Perry.

An order from Boddingtons Brewery requesting branded promotional deckchairs in the mid-90s kickstarted the business’ relationship with printing – initially 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 had been on the cards for a while. ‘I received some marketing from CMYUK about an upcoming Open House event and went up to Shrewsbury for a demo,’ explained Mr Davies.

‘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. Would the inks give off an odour? Would we need additional staff to run it? We were going to have it installed last February, but in the end, we decided to wait for this February,’ he said.

Mr Davies’ initial fears were put to rest and logistical issues were resolved. The vinyl printer operator can work the new equipment and Southsea Deckchairs claims 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,’ said Mr Davies.

The business uses a variety of materials from CMYUK including an eco-linen – a far cry from the unprintable polyethylene slings of the 90s. It also uses different-weight canvas products for a variety of applications.