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On the ground with Whanganui's Fleet Line Markers

In Fleet Line Markers' game it’s the lines on the field which matter most. Despite having impressive growth in its specialist sector, there's still risks to consider.

Fleet Line Markers is New Zealand’s specialist line marking manufacturer of paint and machinery. It’s a global business, with a head office in the UK that was first established in 1953.

“We’ve been part of the game for 70 years and we love making sport happen, creating moments and memories,” says John Carr, CEO Fleet Line Markers (Fleet Australasia).

John admits it sounds dramatic, but markings make the game.

“Sport just wouldn’t happen in New Zealand without us because no one else would be able to deliver the volume of projects we do,” he says. “Without the lines you can’t play the game. But it’s also that moment of ‘Was he in? Was he out? Did they score a try?’ A lot of people get excited about the All Blacks but think about how many kids have those defining moments every day.”

St. Anne's school pupils with a giant silver fern painted on their field

St. Anne's school field in Whanganui was turned into a giant silver fern to kick off the Rugby World Cup in 2019

Surface level

When asked about the secret to their success, John puts it down to the fact they’ve specialised in supplying one area: line marking. “We just want to be the go-to for line marking and make our clients' life easier,” he says.

With clients including schools, city councils, contractors and the majority of New Zealand’s stadiums, the company’s machines and paint are made specifically for grass (including synthetic grass), hard surfaces, tennis courts, playgrounds, and car parks.

The paint accounts for around 80 percent of their business, and their machinery is 20 percent, which includes everything from old school manual transfer wheel markers to GPS guided markers and ride-ons.

Tough learnings

As one of Crombie Lockwood Whanganui’s longest-standing clients, the team have witnessed first-hand the growth of Fleet Line Markers in New Zealand. But that growth has come with its learnings.

Around five years ago, the company was faced with the fallout from a credit card scam. They took payment for a large order, totalling $126,000 worth of stock and freight. The client then requested Fleet Line pay a fake freight charge of over $61,500 to a particular company before they were alerted that the original payment was fraudulent.

At the time, their Crombie Lockwood broker managed to get them back $52,000. It’s safe to say they have all the measures and cyber insurance in place now to ensure this unfortunate situation won’t happen again.

“Our broker really went in to bat for us and that was special. If we didn’t have someone there with a connection who actually cared about the company, we probably would have lost all that money” - John Carr, CEO Fleet Line Markers.

“We got very lucky that we were covered for that incident. That could potentially break a business.”

The Covid-19 lockdowns also brought sport to a grinding halt around the country. Subsequently Fleet Line was down around 95% on sales. But it gave the business an opportunity to improve their tech, systems and marketing. And it has paid off.

Innovation on the field

John says Fleet Line Markers is currently in the midst of a growth period, notching up record sales months for the New Zealand division and the company overall.

Fleet Line Markers also recently won big at the Whanganui Regional Business Awards, taking out both the Innovation and Technology Gold Award and Manufacturing and Engineering Gold Award in November 2022.

John hints at a number of big moves on the horizon too. A heavy investment in robotics, patented technology, and innovative product design to disrupt New Zealand’s horticulture industry are all on the cards.

Like all things Fleet Line, it’s best to keep an ear to the ground for whatever the future may hold.

Published June 2023

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