A bright start to 2022 after some dark times
Like so many businesses, the last two years have been challenging times for us.
Going into 2020 Agon Systems was in a period of rapid expansion. Recently moving into our new purpose-built offices and strengthening our team, we had achieved Sunday Times Fast Track 100 status – confirming our position as one of the fastest-growing companies in the UK.
Then, in early 2020, the covid pandemic reached our shores. And, at the end of that year, we also had Brexit to contend with.
These two landmark events had massive consequences for us. The repeated lockdowns, in the UK and around Europe, brought serious repercussions for our business and the retail industry as a whole. These problems were compounded by Brexit, since 50% of our business is in the EU.
The challenges of lockdown
Through those chaotic times we were working with only a small team, due to many people being furloughed. As the UK went into lockdown and retailers shut, much of Europe was still open. This kept our reduced workforce busy shipping and installing goods for European clients – further impeded by the imposition of travel bans.
Then, as UK retail opened, much of Europe closed. This made operations a little easier but had a significant impact on sales and profitability.
Despite the challenges, with a little ingenuity and a lot of perseverance, we were able to continue operating …
I remember that Sprinter Sports were looking to open around 6 stores in the Canaries during May/June 20, but there were no flights to the Canaries at that point. So not only was it tremendously difficult for our engineers to get there it was also very trying getting the equipment to site.
Somehow, we eventually managed it, with our Spanish engineer getting a ferry to the Canaries and sailing between the islands. He also stayed there for a number of weeks to get the jobs done … before the next difficulty, installing in Ceuta on the North Coast of Africa!
Sean Welch, CEO of Agon Systems
Sadly, during this period, we had to make redundancies to maintain the business’ financial stability. This was particularly heart breaking as some of the team who left us had been here for many years.
Out of the frying pan, into the fire
Having managed to support our clients through the first wave of lockdowns, our reduced team was then faced with the double whammy of a new lockdown, coupled with the completion of Brexit, at the start of 2021.
Brexit did, at least, come with some notice. It was clear that our current structure would not enable us to continue shipping goods to European clients post-Brexit, therefore we had been looking for opportunities to set up a warehouse and office in the EU.
Fortuitously, one of our senior technicians, Oscar, was keen to move back to his hometown of Malaga in Spain. This meant that he could manage the process of finding a premises and hiring local trades to prepare the building to our specification. A feat which would have been impossible for us to achieve without Oscar, due to the pandemic’s travel bans.
In May 2021 we were delighted to open our new Europe office in Malaga. This relieved many of the pressures of both Brexit and the pandemic, enabling us to trade freely across the EU and maintain high standards of service for our clients.
More lockdown challenges
The lockdowns in 2021 meant that UK retail was closed again for almost 4 months. Again, this had a huge impact for both retailers and Agon Systems.
However, we weathered this storm in part thanks to large orders from international markets. This included the USA and Big W’s roll out of our Concept Tag to over 200 stores in Australia.
Bruised but not beaten
Despite the rough ride of the last two years, we are moving into 2022 with renewed optimism, thanks to:
- Ending 2021 with higher sales than 2019.
- Strengthening our UK and Spanish teams.
- Plans to introduce our systems to new markets, including Israel, Indonesia, Malaysia and Canada.
- A conservative forecast that 2022 will be our best year ever.
We have a huge number of people to thank for getting us through these difficult times.
Our team has been amazing, doing whatever is needed to keep our clients happy despite everything. And, on this note, we should also thank their enduringly understanding families for the support they have provided.
We also need to thank our component suppliers, who have struggled through the supply chain issues caused by covid and the 2021 Suez Canal closure.
And, of course, we need to thank our clients. We know that the pandemic has brought you extreme challenges and we admire your resilience to keep going through everything that has been thrown at you.
We are confident that there are better times ahead for us all.
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