Hull paper maker is showing its colours to the world

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 23 Dec 2016

A HULL company, which is recognised as a global leader in supplying beautiful coloured and textured papers to the creative world, has ended its 131st year in business by opening a window on the world of its products for the first time.

GF Smith, based in Lockwood Street, has launched Show Space in central London, describing it as “part brand experience, part consultancy space, part event space”.

Show Space, in Eastcastle Street, off Oxford Street, is being targeted at designers and brand owners, offering a more personal and intimate approach when it comes to communications and consumer experiences between GF Smith and its clients.

John Haslam, joint managing director of GF Smith, who is based in the capital, said: “GF Smith has always had the desire and ambition to inspire the creative world and Show Space is yet another landmark moment in our phenomenal history.”

“We wanted to create a space that challenges, inspires and wows. Students and creative directors alike will be welcome to visit us. We promise innovation and education with our ever-changing curated installations and showcases.”
The 4,000sq ft Show Space has been designed as an entry point into all the services the company provides, with areas devoted to telling the stories behind its handmade photobooks, its custom digital-image framing facility and the 50 shades of its core Colorplan range of papers, first launched in 1936.

While the striking, multi-purpose Show Space, is very much a celebration of the power and beauty of paper in a digital age, it also traces the GF Smith name right back to its roots when founder George Frederick Smith – working from an office in London and a warehouse within a stone’s throw of the docks in Hull – won business in Europe, found partners in America and gathered together a loyal and industrious staff for his paper merchant business.

Phil Alexander, joint-managing director in Hull, where all GF Smith’s manufacturing, corporate and support services are based, said archive material from some of the firm’s earliest days is being displayed in the innovative venue.
“On the wall in the Show Space is a briefcase that belonged to Herbert Tomlinson, our MD through both World Wars,” said Mr Alexander.

“The briefcase was found in Hull when we were refurbishing the premises.

“Another item is the original letter that was sent out to customers in Hull in May 1941, saying GF Smith regretted being unable to fulfil their orders at that time because both the Hull and London warehouses had been destroyed by enemy action.”

The present-day GF Smith employs more than 200 people – three-quarters of them based in Hull – and has a turnover of £30m.

Exporting to more than 60 countries, this year the firm brought Russia and Italy on board as Colorplan stock holders, joining Australia, the US and China.

“The big investments this year have been in Show Space and new warehouse premises in London,” said Mr Alexander, “and we have made additions to our UK sales team and invested in equipment and staff resources in Hull.

“We continue to work with many of the country’s leading luxury retail brands, such as Mulberry, who have collaborated with us on a project that features in the Show Space exhibition.”

This provides insight into the tools and techniques behind the development of a Colorplan bespoke paper for the brand – Mulberry Green – plotting the journey from idea to reality.

Running for three months, the Mulberry Green exhibition will then be replaced by another paper-led showcase with a GF Smith creative partner.

The company is also the UK’s leading manufacturer of luxury wedding albums, and its Make Book digital photo book derivative, which is produced by the same team in Hull that make the wedding albums, is also displayed at the London Show Space.

Mr Alexander said that all the company’s staff would be invited to Show Space in the coming year so they could see how their products were being showcased, and added: “We are also working closely with Hull City of Culture – there is going to be a major joint venture announced in season two of the Hull 2017 programme.”

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