We were recently featured in the
Picture Business magazine.
Managing director Chris Daynes was interviewed by Peter Hancocks. Chris informed Peter of the history of the company together with our vision of where the company is going in the future.
Here is the full article.
Managing Director, Chris Daynes discusses his company's growing success and outlines the tremendous advantages offered by their extensive online ordering service!
Mainline Mouldings, or simply ‘Mainline’as the company now prefers to be known, started some 15 years ago in premises only a couple of miles away from their current complex in the Nottinghamshire village of Langar.
Indeed, during its first year of existence the company grew so rapidly that it was virtually enforced to find a larger space in which to operate and so 12 months on it occupied an old Avro Shackleton Aircraft Hanger. MD, Chris Daynes explained: “This was really the flight shed. The aircraft used to be wheeled in one end, completely fitted out here and then flew out the other end. Avro were of course better known for manufacturing the famous WWII ‘Lancaster’, and later the Vulcan bomber which was also built at Langar.”
When it was founded, Mainline was very much a family business and remains so even to this day. “In year one the company consisted of my parents, myself and one warehouse guy to help us, a far cry you could say to the compact 23 we now employ,” added Chris.
Although Chris’s parents are now semi retired, his father Peter is still involved which is not overly surprising when one considers that he was in the trade for 25 years prior to the forming of Mainline and naturally enough has a wealth of experience.
This underlining experience has supported the company during their sustained expansion. Chris again: “As a family owned business we don’t have any corporate pressures thrust upon us. We are a very customer led business in terms of the products and services we offer. We work hard to ensure our customers are well serviced and are looked after very well.
“Initially we named the company Mainline Mouldings because we intended to focus on mouldings, but that sole action didn’t last long and as a company we snowballed into other areas quite quickly. Mainline remains an appropriate title because we supply the ‘main lines’ used by picture framers, including mountboards, wedges and sundries. That said, we still offer over 2,000 mouldings and are able to compete with any other supplier in the market.”
The company was initially geared to supplying contract framers and distributors. Nowadays though, the business has changed, Chris again: “Our customer profile has grown and changed considerably since the early years. Now a large portion of our customers are bespoke framers who benefit from keen prices made possible by our bulk purchases.” Talking market and product specific Chris said: “Mouldings are very much fashion orientated and that means a constant supply of new ranges and styles. Initially we started buying products off the shelf from European manufacturers and then we started designing products
specifically for the UK market and placing these designs with factories that we had very close ties with, so there’s been a subtle shift over time.”
Polcore is Mainline’s own brand name for their synthetic profiles which they’ve been supplying for about seven years now.“ The popularity of Polcore has grown very quickly through customer demand and we’re continually bringing new designs to market,” added Chris. “The product is well accepted for price and is continually monitored for quality and finish.”
When it comes to mountboards, Mainline has an arrangement with Slater Harrison that has worked well in the past and continues to do so and they have a fine array of contract boards out there at very competitive rates. “We offer a full range of contract boards, museum boards, white boards and jumbo boards, all of which can be supplied in packet or pallet quantities.” said Chris.
“Increasingly the web determines how we operate as a company. Every customer has a unique login which enables us to personalise our product offerings to individual customers.” advised Chris.
Indeed, Mainline’s website has to be seen to be believed and a more detailed explanation of its varying merits, of which there are many, features later.
Mainline has as many wood lines as it does Polcore and Picture Business is led to believe that nowadays the additional use of ‘conservation goods’ is the way forward and does Chris agree with the comment?
He answered: “I think this is an interesting argument Peter. Conservation products are certainly in greater demand than they used to be.
“At the same time perhaps you’re being told there’s money to be made in conservation goods, in all probability by the very companies who are trying to get framers to up-sell.
“Our experience over the last few years is that there hasn’t been a great demand for it, however that is not to say demand for such products won’t continue to increase.
“I do acknowledge that it’s a growth area, but not necessarily a huge portion of the overall framing market. I believe there are many other ways for picture framers to increase their margins!
He added: “As a company we’re pretty nimble and we will listen to our customers and will respond to their needs accordingly. We can act very quickly to any demand made upon us. For instance our ‘blade sharpening service’ is a fine example of us keeping our combined ears to the ground!
“We have a machine which hollow grinds Morsø blades. We’ve had it for a few years now, it’s proved very successful and we have developed considerable expertise in the area; we even offer an export service. I don’t think there are any other machines of this type in the country.”
This must have been a daring purchase for the company and Picture Business wonders how much deliberation took place before the company went for it?
Chris answered thus: “Any step into the unknown for a family firm is not an easy decision to take, but sometimes you’ve just got to go with your instincts. In truth, if enough people are asking you to do something, there must be a market for it.
“The blade sharpening equipment has been purchased direct from Morsø in Denmark and is designed specifically to sharpen Morsø blades for framers. The key thing is that it aligns both the left and right blade perfectly while hollow grinding the blades to the manufacturer’s specifications. The other key thing is that, because blades are quite expensive, when the sharpening process takes place, only a fraction of a millimetre is taken off. So instead of
wearing out the blades, we are ensuring a longer life for our customers’ blades.”
He added: “We discuss with our customers the best way of getting a decent mitre and pass on that knowledge to them.”
“Since acquiring the machine we now ask our customers if their blades have been hollow ground and are surprised by the responses. Often the answer is ‘I think so, the saw company down the road does them’. This invariably means they have been badly ground and possibly permanently damaged.”
Mainline offer over 2,000 mouldings and they stock approximately a further 1,000+ allied products. The company also export to nine other countries where they sell through wholesalers and to galleries and end users. The company is happy to ship individual boxes abroad but usually export pallet and container quantities.
On the subject of prices and delivery Chris said: “We are operating from the centre of the country, which is great for national distribution, and being in a rural location we enjoy very low overheads. This allows us to keep our prices keen. We have recently revised our minimum order down to £95 for a carriage paid next day delivery for orders placed through the website. The majority of orders that leave here are going out on a next day delivery basis. Our dilemma now is that the keener we make our prices, the harder it can become for our customers to achieve carriage paid!”
As previously hinted at, the most important thing to Mainline now is the way they market their business and in particular their online operation. If one takes the 2000+ mouldings for instance, Mainline’s customers can instantly view the situation regarding any one line at any one time and here Chris talks through the operation.
“With our system customers know what’s new, what’s old, how much it costs, how much stock we’ve got, when more stock is arriving, sale items, have their Morsø blades collected and have the same delivered back, even with an order if they so wish. I’d say that an increasing number of our customers are using, enjoying and benefiting from using our website.”
He continued: “Picture framers are busy people. They’re handling their marketing, they’re involved in the workshops, they’re doing a big selling job and, what we are finding when they get home of an evening, they start ordering their mouldings for the next day. They see everything that we have, the stock levels, the price they pay and then place their orders accordingly. If something is out of stock the programme will automatically suggest a similar replacement item and I believe we are the only company within our particular area of interest offering that!
“Our site is in real time, so if a customer placed an order for a particular moulding say this morning, immediately that stock would no longer be available for anyone else to buy. Customers can also manage their accounts online. They can access their statements, see how much they’ve spent and they can view their outstanding balances. They can even settle their accounts online by credit card if they want. This site was developed specifically for our customers’ needs. Customers can even download the Mainline brochure or high-resolution CMYK moulding images to use in their own marketing via our website.
“Another new feature this year is that with any of our 2,000+ products a customer can tag their own product codes onto any of our product codes so that when they search the website it brings up the products that have been tagged. When they buy the product, the customer code is not only visible in the cart; it also comes through on their paperwork, invoices and the like. They instantly know what they’ve bought even if they’ve renamed our products!
In conclusion, it would appear that Mainline is emerging into the spotlight and fast tracking success at speeds hitherto unknown.
p: 01949 861000