Operating from two different sites in the upper region of New Zealand’s South Island, Matt Costello talks to GSM about the unique printing operation he has built, and the pros and cons of being ‘provincial’.
Blenheim sits amongst the sunny wine growing region of Marlborough on the upper east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. A town of approximately 30,000–the local economy largely comprises of horticulture, wine making and farming. The nearby Lake Grassmere salt works is the only operation of its kind in NZ. It supplies approximately 50% of the nation’s requirements. An hour and twenty minutes drive north-west is Nelson. A picturesque seaside port city of about 50,000 and boasting one of the sunniest climates in New Zealand.
Servicing these provincial centres in the print industry is Blenheim Print, located in the town of the same name and dating back to 1981, and its sister company—Anchor Print, based in Nelson. The group acquired Anchor Print in 2015. The two companies offer a full print production service including prepress, offset, digital, letterpress, wide format printing and bindery services. In addition, the small but dedicated team provides a wide variety of skills and expertise to local businesses. But operating a printing business in provincial New Zealand is not without its unique challenges— and bonuses.
Distance is one hurdle. Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island—so it tends to be where most support services are based. However, this is over four hours from Blenheim or five from Nelson. This means you are a long way from help when equipment goes wrong. A site visit from a service technician comes with a travel charge of (minimum) $500 and can be as high as $1000. And, of course, if you run short of anything, you certainly don’t have the choice to go down the road to your suppliers to collect whatever you need—which puts you at the mercy of freight operators. So, forward planning is essential. More recently, the knock-on effects of Covid on supply and transport have been a significant challenge. Increasingly, more resources are required to ensure supplies arrive on time and that we are constantly updating clients in case of delays.
For us, operating from two sites geographically distanced does present some logistical challenges—a return trip between both locations requires the best part of half a day. However, having two locations allows us access to more clients and maximises our machinery’s capacity.
In smaller centres, outsourcing anything can also be difficult—and of late, expensive; there are fewer suppliers in the local market to work with. This means we have had to do more work in-house, which requires additional equipment and up-skilling team members.
However, living in smaller towns does have perks. Like being home from work in ten minutes or crossing town in fifteen—try that in Auckland or Sydney. This is definitely a bonus when visiting clients or coordinating deliveries.
Access to a fantastic outdoor lifestyle is another huge plus. Within half an hour of finishing work, you can be on your bike halfway up a mountain or 2-3km offshore doing a spot of fishing.
A lot of our work comes from local Viticulture, Aquaculture and Horticulture. But that said, we deal with all types of businesses operating in the region, so the client base is very diverse. The size of these clients varies—from sole traders, small corporates and local government—to some substantial family-owned national companies based in the region.
Type of Work
As you would imagine, the type of work is also diverse; run lengths are generally short but are regular. And lead times are no different in provincial areas than anywhere else; we have a lot of exporters in these regions who run time-critical operations. Most of our work is directly with the end client—very few agencies or brokers are operating in the area. Working directly with an end client can present its unique challenges— however, communication is generally made easier.
Diversity is the Key
Range of services is essential for most print shops regardless of location. But is particularly critical for businesses in regional areas to ensure work stays local. Across their two locations, Matt and his team can produce a wide array of printed marketing collateral, board-based packaging and labelling. The latter is particularly important in a part of the country with such a large volume of prime producers and food & winemakers.
Being in a provincial centre, the locals are fairly parochial. But, as with any client, if they don’t get the expected level of service, they will move on. And in a smaller town, ensuring you have a good name is important.
To Sum Up
We love the variety of projects we work on and the range of clients. And, when we add into the mix; the outstanding work-life balance in one of the most scenic regions of Aotearoa—life doesn’t get much better. We wouldn’t change this for the world.
For more information on Blenheim Print or Anchor Print—go to: //anchorprint.co.nz