Most awarded sign company in Australia prepares for liquidation

Above: Kingman were major winners at the 2022 HP ASGA Awards

With more than 100 years of sign writing history, the most awarded sign company in Australia could by liquidated within days.

Administrators for WA-based signage company, Kingman Signs, are expected to recommend liquidation at the second creditors meeting scheduled to be held on 5 March.

Kingman Signs operated for almost four decades and the employment of up to 70 employees remains unknown after the company went into voluntary administration on 29 January with John Bumbak from KordaMentha appointed.

In documents obtained by Sprinter, Bumbak has told creditors on 5 March they will decide on the future of the business, but “a Deed of Company Arrangement is unlikely given that the company has creased trading”.

It is therefore likely that the administrators will recommend that the business is liquidated.

Kingman Visual was established in Perth at one end of a horse arena at a property owned by Vernon and Dianne Kingman in 1994, but the family roots go back more than 100 years with Frank Kingman who began the family’s sign writing dynasty in 1922.

Kingman was a multi-award winning business taking out more than 55 national awards and dominating the AGSA Awards in 2020 and 2022.

The company claimed over 300 years of combined industry experience with over 540,000 signs installed.

Kingman was one of Perth’s biggest sign businesses and was recognised for completing large jobs including the Optus Stadium in 2017 when the business employed 50 staff members and St John of God Hospital in Midland.

In 1997, Vernon and Dianne took a risk and moved the business out of the family home and into a purpose-built custom made factory in 1997 on Malaga Drive. At the time the business only had six staff members.

The gamble of moving the business to a brand new building paid off. Over the next 12 years, not only did they outgrow that factory – they also outgrew the factory they built next door to that resulting in a decision to relocate the steel manufacturing department to an entirely new factory to make way for a new digital print division.

By 2009, the business had grown to 35 staff members and the company’s considerable growth was attributed to its core values of service, quality and reliability.

Once again, the business had outgrown its premises and chose to relocate to its biggest premises at 450 Victoria Road in Malaga – with all business departments and divisions under the one roof.

In 2017, the business surpassed 50 employees and won its biggest contract – the installation of more than 12,500 signs for the construction of the Optus Stadium in Perth.

The business was sold in 2020 and at the time, the new owners Todd Grover and Norman Asch described the path forward for the company.

“From humble beginnings, the Kingman family went from being a small operator to a market leader in the signage industry. The Kingmans built a legacy to be extremely proud of and retired in 2020. With Kingman being sold to new owners, the Kingman legacy will live on. Kingman still has the same great team, just a new captain steering the ship. We are all very excited to be part of this new chapter of change and growth.”

A year later, Kingman Visual was rebranded and its tagline of ‘Signage + Design + Construct’ was replaced by ‘Kingman – Elevate Your Brand’.

“With all focus on implementing change and restructure, Kingman gets a fresh look” – was the description of the re-branding exercise at the time.

In 2022, Kingman installed what it claimed was the largest sky sign in Australia – 56 metres long – at the St John of God Murdoch Hospital. The sign was erected in one day using seven lifts “despite the monumental task and unforeseen weather interruptions on the day”.

Less than 12 months ago, Kingman announced an exclusive partnership with Hydra UK – a well-established Electric Vehicle charging brand boasting over 5,000 installations across the UK and Europe.

Kingman EVC was “welcomed addition to the Kingman Group, which already has well established business units in Kingman Signs and Kingman Digital”.

“Kingman Signs has been the premium sign manufacturer in WA for over 35 years and is the most awarded sign company in Australia,” the company claimed at the time.

Following the launch of the Electric Vehicle Charging division, Kingman rebranded once again to Kingman Group and also expanded into solar cladding product solutions.

Shortly before the business went into voluntary administration staffing had increased by a further 50 per cent since the company was sold in 2020 to 75 employees.

“We have a team of 75 dedicated experts who are trusted by some of the biggest Australian and global brands to deliver large and complex projects on time and on budget.”

Less than a year ago, the company was advertising for the following positions: account manager, operations manager, analyst programmer, digital designer, AV technician – digital signage, aluminium fabricators, acrylic fabricators, signwriter, spray painter, signage installer, apprentice sign makers and an estimator.

“At Kingman, we like to think of our staff as being part of the Big K Family. We have a core set of values that we regularly promote to get the best working environment for our staff as believe by having happy people we will have happy customers.

“Due to, strong growth, Kingman is looking to grow our team with experienced signage professionals. Come and join Australia’s most awarded sign company as we evolve through a period of growth and change under new ownership. Kingman’s future is exciting, and we can offer career opportunities for expansion and promotion for the right individuals. Come and work with us on the new Chevron building, Red Rooster and Chicken Treat rebrands and many other marquee projects across Western Australia,” the company said a year ago.

“Some of the benefits of working for Kingman are: Working on some of the most impressive signage projects state-wide; Learn about the exciting world of Digital Signage; Learn and work alongside signage industry leaders; Be exposed to a wide range of skills and experience; Producing the highest quality signage, which can be seen all across WA; A convenient factory location in Malaga; A fully equipped kitchen/lunch room with two fancy coffee machines for all staff to enjoy and a popcorn machine; Competitive and friendly team environment.”

An internal company email obtained by WA newspaper Echo News, dated 17 January, less than two weeks prior to entering voluntary administration outlined the problems facing the business.

“The signage industry is doing it tough. Quotations are ironically way up on last year (we have quoted $41 million in jobs in the past six months) but conversions to orders are dropping and have been for almost six months now,” the email reads.

“This is due to the slowdown in commercial construction and the economy, this is not a Kingman issue – the response from our customers is ‘delays to projects’.

“As a company we expect to reach $15m in total sales for this year and that is three to five times more than our nearest competitor and a 50 per cent growth on last year.

“As a management team we took our eyes off the ball in terms of financial discipline – our bad – and now we have to correct that.

“We are making the necessary changes so that we are not just the market leader in sales, but in profitability as well.

“It’s long overdue and we need to get this right to protect the company, its staff and its shareholders.”

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