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Journey ends for Eastland Trader

When a representative of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp rang Matt Skuse in 2003 to try to buy the rights to the Eastland Trader, Mr Skuse had a simple answer.

“Hell no, I won't sell — it's going really well.”

At that time the choice was simple, Mr Skuse recalls, with the buy, sell and exchange book flying off shelves across the region.

However, after the introduction of Facebook Marketplace and now the impacts of Covid-19 as a final straw, the 22-year project has come to an end — with production of the Eastland Trader having stopped.

“When Facebook started Facebook Marketplace, pretty much over the next few weeks Eastland Trader sales dropped 80 percent, which was just devastating for us.

“We've kept it going and invested a lot of money into our website, but we can't compete with a $500 billion company.

“With that massive drop in sales, we invested into more of the large-format printing and signage, which is now the main part of the business.”

Live Creative, Design, Sign and Print, Mr Skuse's business, is following a new direction as well now with the help of a staff member who had experience with sign printing in Germany.

It has also relocated to new premises on Bright Street, and taken on a project manager and new graphic designer.

“We had all this kit come into our little shop on Gladstone Road but it was just too small.

“We moved in in February, four weeks before lockdown.

“We were absolutely pumping — then boom, absolutely nothing.”

Just two weeks into lockdown, staff began making Covid-19-related designs and they started selling them all over New Zealand from the Live Creative website.

“Even with that we came out with a loss, but it would have been a lot worse if we hadn't done this.”

There were now 80 different types of Covid-19-related signs on the company website, with “hand washing station” signs proving the most popular.

“We just made up heaps of different signs.”

Mr Skuse started the Eastland Trader in 1998 when he was still logging.

“We were the first hauler crew into the region and then I started up (the Trader) — literally, it got so busy I had to quit my job.”

Mr Skuse said the Trader was not only his “baby”, it was also a family pastime.

“The kids used to come in and put all the books together and do all the finishing on the books. And over the past year, dad — who's turning 80 soon — has been the delivery boy.”

The Trader was set up as a full buy, sell and exchange booklet, with the goal to sell 1000 books — “and I did that in the first month”.

“At its peak, it was selling about 3000 books a week. Since Covid . . . it was a pretty much an excuse to stop it.”

Mr Skuse said Live Creative was now finishing off its new premises, which would include an internal storage system and internal artwork.

“We set up to print high-volume signage at a cost-effective price. We also set up to wrap vehicles and buses with vinyl. They can drive a bus straight in here and out of the elements.

“A lot of Gisborne companies and organisations are still outsourcing their print and sign work out of our region. Now is the time to really support local business,” says Mr Skuse.

“If someone is organising the printing or signage for you, ask them to shop local.”

CHANGING TRADES: Matt Skuse of Live Creative, Design, Sign and Print has put the Eastland Trader to bed after 22 years of publication.Picture by Liam Clayton