The dramatic slump in the value of sterling could prove to be the biggest single factor in the battle by Oldbury specialist glass suppliers N J Bradford to weather the current economic downturn.
Neil Bradford, grandson of the founder of the family business who was brought in by his father Tim earlier this year to use his international business experience to take the company to new levels, is reporting interest from potential new customers.
Inquiries are coming from companies that have, until now, been buying their glass products from China or other countries offering cheap – and often inferior – decorative and toughened glass products.
“The first six months of my involvement with the company as a non-executive director with a remit to take the company into new market places and expand the traditional customer base were terrific,” said Neil Bradford.
“But we have been badly affected by the financial crisis across the world. But probably no worse than most other manufacturers.”
A substantial reduction in orders from customers who opted to use existing stocks forced N J Bradford into putting its 50 strong workforce on a four-day week, but the full five-day working has now been resumed.
“There are businesses who are still working and therefore now have a need for our products, having used up all their stock in hand,” said Mr Bradford.
“This has come at a time when the value of the pound has seriously declined and therefore made our products so much more competitively priced in comparison to the foreign imports.
“We are receiving approaches from potential customers who are no longer feeling financial gain from buying imported goods.
“We are currently so much more competitive and I am making every effort to exploit the situation.”
N J Bradford, which has traditionally served the decorative glass and toughened glass markets, now supplies the furniture industry, caravans and mobile homes, lighting projects – it manufactured the toughened glass for the lighting at the new St Pancras Station – and opportunities have been identified in the off-road automotive sector and in retail and showroom fit outs.
When he joined the business Mr Bradford expected the company to remain in the high volume market, but believed its future lay in the production of quality bespoke products for niche markets, manufactured to high specifications and delivered on a just-in-time, followed by superior after sales service.
Mr Bradford, aged 35, joined the 70-year-old family business in Ashes Road, Oldbury, earlier this year after working in the IT sector. After graduating in geography from Oxford University, he spent his early career with management consultant McKinsey before founding a UK research company which was later bought by the US company, Forrester Research. He set up another IT business and then took a job as chief executive of a business forecasting fashion industry trends.
He joined N J Bradford in July with the aim of developing new products and markets.