A north-east business owner has said the key to his brand’s success is down to “staying true to who we are.”
Bob Christie, founder and managing director at Concept Promotional Merchandise (Concept), had to adapt to very difficult market conditions and get creative to support changing demands when coronavirus hit.
But despite the obstacles, he says his team continues to meet these challenges head-on while helping others in the process – including NHS staff.
“Without a doubt, Covid-19 has been the toughest challenge of my career,” Bob added.
“It is difficult to survive in this climate, but with tenacity, resilience and sheer hard graft combined with a positive outlook, we are delighted to be thriving.
“We genuinely love what we do and value and appreciate each and every one of our customers.
“During the first two weeks of lockdown last year, we like many companies were inspired to assist and support the NHS by playing a small part in boosting morale and offering my personal thanks to everyone who looked after me during a bout of shingles.
“Working with Oteac, we created and distributed NHS Superhero clothing and 850 bags within Aberdeen. By finding a way of helping those around us, giving back and collaborating, our route back to success was well and truly underway.
“We also have plans in the coming weeks to collaborate with another local charity to provide free clothing for projects they have in the local community here in Aberdeen and the surrounding area.
“This only confirms that these organisations need continued support during the ongoing pandemic restrictions.
“We also wanted to help the wider community and added some highly sought after and vital merchandise to our product range including face masks and snoods, as well as hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial pens.
“This has proved very successful and has helped consolidate the positions of our seven members of staff. We have had phenomenal support from ever-supportive clients, which has helped us to increase sales during the very challenging lockdown months.
“It’s a clear demonstration that we’re doing what the market needs us to do and, after dusting ourselves down, we are getting there.
“We have come this far through the days and weeks of doubt and are meeting our clients’ needs. We are strong and resilient as we come out the other side but most of all we are growing.”
Concept are suppliers of branded clothing and corporate merchandise and the business has been bringing brands to life for the last 23 years.
The team has the in-house expertise, creativity and drive to help their clients increase their brand awareness and meet marketing objectives.
Bob added: “I founded the company in May 1998 as a lifestyle business, initially growing via word of mouth before the days of social media and online networking.
“To increase the profile of the business, back in the day, we would brand various gifts and send these to new clients as well as potential customers.
“The concept has since evolved into a professional and respected local company that is focused on helping clients increase brand awareness through the effective use of promotional merchandise.
“I will say that even 23 years on, I am still learning and have recently been pushed out of my comfort zone to look at ways to shout about my success.
“I teamed up with a local marketing consultancy, which has shown me first-hand the value and benefits of digital marketing and the importance of connecting with our audience online as well as exploring more traditional marketing tactics.
“As part of this drive to reach new clients, we launched a new website that includes an online ordering service as well as increased our visibility on social media.
“Our business is founded on fast, local supply at competitive prices for low or high-volume orders. Our clients predominantly come from all over the north and north-east of Scotland as well as other regions of Scotland and UK.
“Now, we believe we are leaders in the field of corporate merchandise in Scotland as our focus is always 100% on our customers’ needs and helping them increase their brand awareness through the effective use of promotional merchandise.
“Concept has the capability and expertise to brand quality products from our premises in Aberdeen, which gives added flexibility to deliver multiple jobs simultaneously to shorten lead-times and reduce costs for our customers.
“To take the business to the next level, we expanded the workshop production facility at Commerce Street and invested in excess of £150,000 in high speed, advanced embroidery equipment and the latest branding technology.
“This is unrivalled in the city and, combined with our global network of trusted suppliers, really gives us the edge.”
While the Covid-19 pandemic triggered a “white-knuckle rollercoaster ride for many companies”, Bob hopes to inspire others to support local businesses in these challenging times and has shown his support for the North East Now campaign.
Bob said: “North East Now is a valuable local resource bringing together the best of business in the area.
“I think it’s vitally important for local businesses to embrace technology such as the North East Now website and Instagram pages to connect with the wider community as well as local suppliers and events.
“I think North East Now is a great initiative to showcase local success stories and celebrate all our diverse region has to offer.”
Looking ahead, the managing director is starting to consider what new and different things the business’ clients might need.
Like many people, when I think of growing my business it is the financial side of things which usually springs to mind,” he added. “But in recent months, I have learned to look at growth in new ways.
“As well as the huge dips over the past year, there has also been cause for adrenalin-fuelled euphoria for those of us who have opted to be creative, think outside of the box and find ways of growing against the odds.
“As government guidance for lockdown easing begins to emerge, I am starting to consider what new and different things our clients might need from us.
“Many will wish to promote their brands to reconnect with their clients, they will also have a duty of care to kit out their staff safely.
“Working strategically and carefully with our global supply chain, I created a shortlist of practical products that offer real solutions, such as antibacterial and bio-free products to repel germs.
“That range is adapting – and growing – as we begin to move through the phases of ‘unlocking’ and we are working with our clients to examine how their budgets can be used wisely as they get back on their feet.
“I am particularly proud that the business has grown through word of mouth and professional referrals. And my goal is to continue to build strong relationships with local businesses to support our loyal customers as well as to tap into a new client base.”
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