When Esso decided to rebrand their Cleveland Oil tanker fleet, it was that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Roy Townson. Working for 3M™, he’d seen the new printed self-adhesive cut graphics already taking over from traditional signwriting in the States. It meant that big fleets could be uniformly branded with durable markings, and with a lot less time off the road.
Roy founded Stewart Signs with a loan from his father-in-law (E.H. Stewart) and an order from Esso. His artwork and tool-making skills meant that all the production processes could happen under one roof. The pioneering company soon built a national reputation for producing consistently high-quality, precision-cut fleet livery and signs.
The 1970s was a tumultuous decade for business, with the ‘three-day week’ and ‘the winter of discontent’. Stewart Signs proved a secure and reliable partner throughout this period, championing their clients by protecting their brand identity.
Blue-chip organisations such as the National Coal Board, Southern Electricity Board and Central Electricity Generating Board relied on Stewart Signs volume production methods for consistent, durable livery and signs.
3M launched Controltac™, their revolutionary new positionable adhesive system that made it possible to apply large-format graphics with minimal vehicle downtime. Roy’s younger son, Michael, joined the business and started his apprenticeship on the factory floor, along with other long-service employees who are still with the company today.
Entering the new decade and emerging from recession, the UK’s biggest brands saw the opportunity for using their trucks as rolling billboards. Self-adhesive vinyl had come of age, with Stewart Signs investing in large-format screen print equipment to meet the needs of this increasingly creative client base.
Elder son Tony Townson joined Stewart Signs in 1983, taking over from his father Roy, who died five years later after a long illness. This was a period of rapid growth with denationalisations and many big launches for new brands including ICI, National Power and Nuclear Electric.
As the decade progressed, Stewart Signs was an early adopter of new computer-aided design and cutting technology. Flexible low-volume precision-cut graphic manufacture soon became a reality for an increasingly demanding marketplace.
While the previous decade had seen the possibilities created by digital cutting technology, the 1990s saw the advent of large-format digital printing, which Stewart Signs helped to pioneer. This new process not only made short print runs economical, it also offered durable photo-realistic representation for more distinctive liveries signs and displays.
Stewart Signs opened a second production unit and soon after won the contract to brand the BT fleet, the largest in the UK. The company was one of the first in the industry to be awarded BSI 14001 environmental accreditation, reflecting the commitment to sustainability that continues to this day.
Increased demand for complex multi-site branding projects drove the acquisition of installation experts TFM, bringing in-house the control of all survey and installation activity.
The explosion in large-format graphic production progressively usurped traditional sign-making processes. Stewart Signs continued to invest in this technology and developed a presence and great reputation in the fast-moving outdoor display market.
Graffiti-resistant easy-clean laminates made printed liveries more durable. Stewart Signs Rail division developed their own patented Signshine protective coating to conform over difficult contoured surfaces. They fully wrapped the entire C2C fleet and afterwards bought Halo Rail to further strengthen their presence in the rail market, wrapping the South Eastern 465 fleet.
New wrapping film technology also drove change in the commercial vehicle business. Within a period of twelve months, Stewart Signs fully wrapped over 3,000 SSE and 4,000 DPD vans. To support this increased Fleet and Rail activity, they launched online parts cataloguing and ordering, making life easier for clients and significantly reducing their downtime costs.
JCDecaux trusted Stewart Signs to develop and deliver the specialist outdoor installations for London 2012 Olympic Games, which catapulted the growth of the Media division. This was the year the company won the JCDecaux Outstanding Safety Performance Award, the first time ever for a sign and graphics company.
In November 2013 Stewart Signs celebrated 50 years as a family owned and managed business. They marked this milestone with significantly increased investment in people, plant and processes to secure their position for an exciting future, underpinned by deep long-term relationships.
Bigger and better than ever! Even with the rocky start of the 2020s, Stewart Signs not only managed to successfully navigate the pandemic but also strengthened the business to its core. Investment in a talented workforce and state-of-the-art machinery doesn’t go unnoticed by our clients.
We are commercial
- Plan ahead and follow processes
- Alert to opportunities and assess risk
- Understand how what we do affects our customers
We are honest
- Do the right thing, and speak up if in doubt
- Take responsibility for successes and failures
- Treat everyone fairly and build trust
We are positive
- Prepared, clear and concise in all communication
- Respect diversity, treating others as we would wish to be treated
- Enjoy our work and care about the results
We make things better
- Question existing practices, fix causes not symptoms
- Demand continual improvement from ourselves and others
- Keep it simple and get it right first time
We are a family
- Take care of ourselves and those around us
- Encourage personal achievement
- Take ownership and deliver what we promise
Interested in joining Stewart Signs?
At Stewart Signs, you’ll join one of the UK’s best established and most successful sign and graphics companies. We’ll give you the support you need to continuously progress your career while delighting our customers and developing those around you.
We work in an honest, positive and friendly environment, where people are encouraged and empowered to make the best decisions. Our company values are centred on being a family, making things better and delivering results.
If you’d like to work in this environment and have beliefs consistent with our own, do let us know. Specific opportunities are listed below, but if you have something special which doesn’t immediately fit with anything here then contact firstname.lastname@example.org