#10Q: From retail signage to Covid PPE production

When South Africa went into hard lockdown in March, retail signage company Holdit shifted manufacturing operations to making face masks, face shields and other coronavirus PPE.

Entrepreneur Ryan Woodley is currently at the helm of Citrus Creative, Big Bright Think and Holdit Marketing and Manufacturing, his family retail signage business. With over 20 years’ experience within the omnichannel signage industry, Woodley is an authority on new tech POS possibilities and solutions. When South Africa went into hard lockdown in March to prepare health facilities for the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Holdit shifted manufacturing operations to making face masks, face shields and other coronavirus Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); while supporting an NPO called Ithuba (Place of Hope) which is producing masks, thereby providing employment in the most vulnerable communities.


1. How has your business changed post-Covid?

All businesses are in survival mode. We are a primary retail signage manufacturer and we adapted our production lines to produce low cost, high quality PPE equipment to fight COVID-19. We have also invested heavily in machinery which will help us meet the demand both locally and internationally.

2. What is your core focus right now?

It boils down to helping others. The emphasis is on community and connectedness. Pre-Covid or post-Covid, our long-standing trusted family business has always nurtured and served our client’s needs; and now in this pandemic, we are going the extra mile. Being mindful of the human stresses we are under, we have come up with a way to help connect people in a resourceful and knowledgeable way by bringing other manufacturers to the table and allowing affiliates to leverage off their own networks to create business.

3. Tell us more about your survival strategy?

Providing PPE; and then bringing innovative solutions to handling problems people cannot solve for themselves.

4. How will your industry sector transform?

The retail sector will have to practice responsible retailing. Making sure they have a safe environment and safer products at better prices. Retailers will want to be serviced faster; and have a better product at a better price, to meet the demands of a public with shifted priorities.

5. How will your customers’ needs change?

They are going to need new business and repeat business even more, but they are going to have to keep in mind social distancing and responsible retailing. We are going to help them with not only compliant solutions, but innovative ones too – like the virtual mirror in store which virtually shows lipstick color instead of trying it on. We are bringing new omnichannel retail signage into South Africa and will be launching new products soon.

6. What is your key learning post-Covid?

Our nation is resilient and we fight back against all odds; we need to really understand the customer and what they need and want; there are no more square holes for all the square peg businesses out there: to survive you need to be able to remold and join the next digital industrial revolution. There are no more boxes – now there are polygons and hexagons.

7. What do you expect from the rest of 2020?

COVID-19 will wind down eventually and retail will pick up.

8. What has been your biggest challenge?

Finding stable reliable supply of raw materials.

9. How do you keep yourself motivated?

My family, my staff and their families. They feel part of my family. I have a responsibility to them to make sure they survive. The choice of giving up was never an option.

10. What is your superpower?

To make things go right and, more importantly, to carry on when things don’t. It’s the resilient individual who sees the glass half full, that will make it.



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