Why the big guys got better prices for personal protective equipment

Affordable and accessible safety
September 24, 2020 by
Why the big guys got better prices for personal protective equipment
Pantelis Eleftheriou (use)

About Two years ago, a friend asked me as to why we make safety more expensive for small business owners who buy 5 shoes than the big guys who buy 100 pairs. "Surely the small guy needs the better price?" he challenged.

It's how the industry works,  I said. You have your wholesale and tender customers and your retail customers. Suppliers need to see big volumes, because that's how they measure our success and determine our discounts. I think I may have even thrown out buzzwords, economies of scale and B2B vs B2C.

I look back now and can see that despite my desire to innovate, we had expanded FTS Safety around a very traditional model and never really deviated from the rest of the industry, despite our constant efforts. We measured our success of qty growth in sales instead of impact on safety. Sadly, nothing had really changed in 20 years, when I was driving around with a cricket bag full of footwear and workwear samples.

2020 is the toughest year I have ever encountered. COVID19 has been eventful, and hit us hard. So many of our loyal customers are still closed, many may never open, disruptions in supply, bad debt, inundation of new players in the industry, strained relationships, lockdown. I was worried all this would crowd us out. 

We did a lot of talking around how to be a more relevent and impactful business. One of our core missions is to make Safety Simple and Affordable.  To this end we took the big decision, publishing our entire warehouse onto our website. To assist those businesses trying to reopen, big and small, we reduced our prices and made one single price for everyone.  Delivery costs are now standard across the entire country. Our warehouse team can now have any order through the website ready within 30 minutes of confirmation. We are moving to become a full e-commerce business. Like Takealot but for Safety. 😉

A Standard D59 conti jacket used to retail at R355 in our retail shop.  Now you can get the same item for R270 via our website. You can see whats in stock in real time, and you can order it at your leisure. Have it delivered or come in and collect.

Instead of worrying about being crowded out, I choose to focus on the opportunities, 2020 has raised everyone's awareness of PPE and safety in the workplace.  It has also challenged me to be a better leader, to design a better system and impactful model, and hopefully create new jobs and opportunities.

In our new form, we won't please everyone - some buyers will still want someone to visit them and write down their order and bring them a pen or a small chocolate. We'll think about that once Covid19 is under control, but in the meantime thats not going to be us.  If you want to interact with us via Zoom, skype, hangouts and whats-app we're your people. 

Stay safe and please wear a mask, and order online.