April's Supplier Spotlight -Spandex UK

Founded by Mary and Charlie Dobson in 1976, Spandex has come a long way since it was set up as an aluminium extrusion business.


For those wondering where the name Spandex comes from, it stands for ‘specialised anodized extrusions.’ With both Charlie and Mary being from an artistic background, their vision for signage was always destined to be creatively executed. Many of the colours and formulations that make up the colour palettes today were named by Mary very early on in her business journey. Wayfinding signage was big business in the early days of Spandex, right up until GSP came forth with the very first vinyl plotter. This piece of equipment completely revolutionised the signage industry in the early 80s, and only improved with digitisers, right up until the early 90s when the Gerber Edge was born: the first full-colour, thermal resin printer.  From the time Spandex was formed until the early 1990s, the industry had gone from painting to cutting and layering coloured vinyl and finally, printing a hundred different colours onto a light or clear product. At this time of huge growth for the industry, Charlie and Mary partnered with Charles Brunner and formed Spandex Germany, the beginnings of making Spandex the global organisation we know today. 26 years after Mary and Charlie sold their business, they remain regular visitors to the Bristol HQ.


Present-day Spandex has continued to diversify its offering, moving with the ever-changing times. With its history heavily steeped in sign making, as vehicle wrapping, window and architectural films have entered the market and continue to rise in popularity, Spandex’s range has widened to meet growing demand. They are especially keen to promote the benefits of ppf within the automotive sector, alongside the digital print films and coloured wrapping films already on offer. In addition to being the exclusive UK distributor for STEK paint protection films, Spandex also offers 3M, Oracal, Avery Dennison and Arlon Graphics wrapping films. Sign makers still make up the majority of their customer base, with  several brands of coloured signage films and digital materials readily stocked. 


Spandex’s On The Road With 3M tour is an innovative way to take participants on a journey, allowing them to transfer their installation skills into new markets and broaden their offering to existing or new customers such as architectural refresh or vehicle wrapping. The tour consists of 14 events in seven venues and will allow you to see the latest trends, meet with experts and industry leaders, and enjoy networking opportunities. Sales Director, Darren Penny, says,  “At Spandex, we’re dedicated to supporting our customers’ businesses in all areas, from signage and digital to automotive and architectural. We want you to have the tools and knowledge to explore new avenues so that you can diversify your business”. 3M training for the architectural accreditation can be done through Spandex, as well as the 3M automotive training, Cover Styl’ and paint protection and the introduction to vinyl course, a sign making course for anybody that wants to learn the basics.  


With events running this year to increase awareness and provide value to their customers, there are also other items on the agenda for the busy team at Spandex. General Manager, Ben Scammell reveals how they are contributing to the industry’s move towards sustainability, “our new sustainability director, Helen Dalton is a global ambassador for us and we are working on some workshops to close the loop in the industry. There’s a lot of greenwashing that happens in the market but it’s not about selling sustainability. It’s not something you need to sell, it’s something you need to believe in. We need to collectively work together within the industry to find the right solution, and it’s not a one-size fits all approach at the moment.” Ben and Darren are both seeing the wider picture when it comes to sustainability, noting that PVC products are less than 3% of the problem and that the issue also resides with supply chains, people management and deliveries. Although their range of films, ImagePerfect now offer a PVC-free solution to those searching for a more sustainable end product, the team at Spandex realise a wider issue is at play and are aiming to tackle this head-on through education and industry-wide collaboration.


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