Coffins contract revitalised Peterborough's GH Display and put it on track for new success
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A contract to make coffins helped breath new life into a Peterborough exhibition stands manufacturer left struggling by the pandemic.
The deal provided GH Display, of Bullock Road, Washingley, with much needed revenue at a time when lockdown rules had wiped out its traditional business.
It proved to be a pivotal moment for company which has since gone on to enjoy new growth, has recruited extra staff and has just won the Small Business of the Year award at the Peterborough Telegraph Business Excellence Awards 2023.
Bosses could only watch in horror as the Covid-19 pandemic sent GH Display’s revenue plunging by 100 per cent as lockdown rules ended the public gatherings that had been the lifeblood of the business for about 40 years.
Staff were furloughed as the owners desperately sought new products to manufacturer to bring in money.
Salvation came from a perhaps unlikely source when GH Displays secured a contract with a coffin manufacturer to produce about 100 coffins a week at its workshop in Peterborough.
It allowed GH Display’s stands builders to return to work and they were trained on how to build and lacquer coffins and in a week the business was running a coffin production operation.
John Hodson, managing director, said: “The coffin work gave us some income, but we knew we would have to find other revenue streams to keep us going until exhibition stands would be needed again.”
As the vaccination campaign began, GH Display began making and installing Covid-19 testing and vaccination booths for hospitals, mosques and community centres nationally.
It also secured a large contract with internet retailer Amazon to make production line worker screens in its distribution centres.
The end of lockdown put the focus back on the events industry but this time sustainability was key.
Announcing GH Display as winner of the Small Business of the Year award, Melvyn Prior, host of the Peterborough Telegraph Business Excellence Awards, told guests: “A big focus on sustainability… had a positive impact on profitability. With turnover more than doubling in 2021 to 2023, the company is embarking on yet another extension to its factory.”
Last year GH Display completed the building of a new 333 square metre workshop and storage unit on their site in Peterborough and created 10 full-time jobs. This year it has built a further 666 square metres of storage, workshop and a print facility.
The business also established its first apprenticeship training programme, initially with an exhibition stand builder apprenticeship and then with a print technician apprenticeship.
The company has also installed 166 solar panels on its workshop roof space, ensuring it has achieved its vision of powering its own operations with its own generated renewable energy.
Today, every exhibition stand manufactured at GH Display is done so using renewable energy only.
A spokesperson said: “Throughout this challenging and fast changing time GH Display has continued to grow its customer base.
"Testament to its high levels of customer service is the fact that it has also retained its existing clients alongside the 70 per cent growth in turnover.”