Award-winning Belper protective clothing business, Armadillo Merino®, has increased sales in America by 200% after winning contracts with US police departments in Washington, Houston, Chicago and Salt Lake City with support from the Department for International Trade (DIT).
The business designs and manufactures next-to-skin protective clothing for police, firefighters, soldiers and other professionals working in high-risk environments. It regularly supplies special forces, NASA astronauts and elite police and fire rescue units.
The new contracts were secured after DIT supported managing director Andy Caughey to attend the two-day National Tactical Officers Association Conference and Trade Show in Arizona last year - the largest law enforcement conference globally. Andy met buyers from across the US and has since been working with local agents and DIT representatives on the ground.
Made from the wool of Merino sheep, the clothing is designed to withstand heat and flames up to 570˚C and was inspired by Andy seeing images of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with avoidable burns and injuries inflicted by the synthetic clothing they were wearing.
The exports follow a duo of prestigious award wins this summer. The business was commended with a Board of Trade Award presented by Liam Fox, secretary of state for international trade. The award recognises ambitious British businesses and allows the firm to use the President of Trade’s logo on its products and online channels. They also scooped £2,000 to fund attendance at trade missions as part of the Heathrow World of Opportunity Award.
Since being founded in 2011, Armadillo Merino now exports to 36 countries including Japan, Germany and Italy with overseas sales contributing almost 60% of its annual turnover.
Andy Caughey, managing director of Armadillo Merino, said: “Our sole purpose is to make clothing that genuinely improves safety and comfort for professionals working in risky environments. We have invested a lot in research and development over the years to make our garments the best they can be in the base layer category, and it is rewarding to be getting recognition from around the world.
“The Department for International Trade has been incredibly supportive as we have turned our commercial priorities to the US over the last 18 months. North America is already one of our top export markets, but we knew we had barely scratched the surface of opportunities available to us over there. Our international trade adviser’s recommendation to attend the NTOA trade show has been a big step in the right direction and we’re confident this export win is the first of many as we continue to build relationships with buyers across the pond. It goes to show that if we can, you can too.”
International trade secretary, Dr Liam Fox, said: “I was delighted to present Armadillo Merino with a Board of Trade Award earlier this year, recognising the business’ excellence in international trade. This latest success in the US is testament to its exporting ambitions.
“The demand for British goods and services continues to grow, and our homegrown businesses should be tapping into this global appetite. My international economic department has a team based here in the East Midlands to support aspiring businesses identify new exporting opportunities, and I’d urge those looking to take their first steps to get in touch.”
Michelle Ovens, director of Small Business Saturday, said: “Across the UK, small businesses have provided their expertise and services to their own communities for generations. It is therefore great to see these local heroes looking overseas as another exciting route to consider. Businesses should not be restricted by size; small companies can trade overseas and offer as innovative ranges on their online platforms as the biggest corporations.
“This year’s Small Business Saturday falls on 1 December, with a whole range of small businesses – many of whom are already trailblazers in exporting their products abroad – hosting events and promotions to encourage people to shop local and support businesses in their communities. The UK’s 5.6 million small businesses are the heart of the UK economy, so having a day to showcase their contributions both at home and abroad is well deserved.”
DIT has a network of international trade advisers that support aspiring businesses and identify new exporting opportunities. DIT also holds a number of workshops and events in the East Midlands region that are built to find solutions to businesses’ exporting concerns.
Those looking to take their first step can get in touch with the local office to speak with an international trade adviser and find out more about opportunities that exist worldwide.
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