After taking over the plastic specialist High Profile and founding a German subsidiary last year, SPS not only further expanded its position as a British manufacturer, but also strengthened its standing as a European player. CEO Phil Morgan talks about the “made in Britain” success and the potential of the cross-border business.
Mr. Morgan, how important is British manufacturing for the market strategy of SPS?
Phil Morgan: British manufacturing is crucial to our market strategy. As a manufacturer we can take a lead in the market in terms of creativity, innovation, lead times, quality, range extension and more. We also have items with protected designs, which means we are the only manufacturers able to produce and supply these products. Our European sales strategy particularly focuses on our British collection, so this range is crucial to our success in Europe. In order to support this strategy, we invest heavily in research and development. We have an in-house product design and development team, who are constantly generating new product ideas, finding ways to diversify and extend ranges as well as exploring new opportunities in the market. As a British manufacturer we then transform our ideas into manufactured products.
Which products do you manufacture in Britain?
Phil Morgan: We manufacture a huge range of plastic and paper items at our factories in Blackpool and Banbury. We have a combined 10,000 m2 facility, which allows us to manufacture and warehouse an extensive portfolio. Our most popular manufactured range would have to be drinkware. Since launching the Americano® Thermal Mug a few years ago, the range has been incredibly popular, so we’ve added to the range and adapted it in order to increase our offering. We then extended our drinkware range with the launch of the H2O Active™ Sports Bottle range. The UK-designed and manufactured range has been a huge success for us, thanks to the versatility and high quality of the bottles. In addition to drinkware, we manufacture a large range of keyrings in a variety of shapes and sizes. The keyring is where it all began for SPS, so we’re delighted that this is still a core part of our product range.
We’re also the exclusive manufacturer of the Brite™ range of products, which are all manufactured with in-mould labelling. This offers huge benefits for branding, allowing full colour print to be moulded into the actual product, for an incredibly long-lasting message. We apply this technique to mouse mats, coasters, phone stands, notebooks and even to our Americano drinkware family. The Brite™ items are also eco-friendly, with some items containing up to 99.5% recycled material. Another key area is our bespoke products service at our Banbury site. Thanks to our expert team and equipment, we can manufacture bespoke plastic items with low minimum order quantities, short lead times and very competitive prices. As a manufacturer, we take our environmental responsibility very seriously and operate a zero-to-landfill policy, where we recycle any waste material generated through our production processes.
How big is the share of products made in Britain of your overall portfolio?
Phil Morgan: Our manufactured products make up around 60% of our portfolio, both in terms of range and revenue. In terms of our supply to Europe, we focus solely on our items manufactured in Britain.
Which role do products made in Europe play in today’s industry?
Phil Morgan: We’re seeing many of our customers prioritising products made in Europe over those from the Far East and we believe this trend will continue. Sourcing from within Europe gives greater control over lead-times and quality. Plus there are better opportunities for building relationships with your suppliers, visiting the factories and seeing where the products are made. We regularly welcome customers to our Blackpool and Banbury sites, who are keen to see the manufacturing and branding processes in action.
Do you think we will see more products manufactured in Britain and Europe in the near future?
Phil Morgan: Absolutely. Especially in Britain there is a huge focus on the “Made in Britain” brand and lots of support for entrepreneurs to develop their businesses. Over the last decade, established manufacturers have had to review their processes and business strategies to remain efficient and survive the recession. For many, that included a clear focus on efficiencies and finding new ways to be prominent in the market. For SPS, that prominence has been achieved through our innovative products, by introducing new lines to the market each year as well as placing a huge focus on operating efficiently and environmentally-consciously. All this work carried out by SPS and other manufacturers, puts each of us in strong positions to continue and grow in the future.
How are your products received outside Britain?
Phil Morgan: Very well. The “Made in Britain” stamp is incredibly well received in Europe and beyond, so we’re delighted to be a part of this movement with our manufactured range. Again, we are becoming increasingly well-known in Europe for our creative designs, innovative products and high quality.
Last year, you opened a subsidiary in Germany. What is your résumé so far?
Phil Morgan: Our first year has been great. Obviously we had to raise the awareness for our brand in Germany and Manfred Nieder has been fantastic at placing our brand and product range in front of key customers. Our biggest challenge has been getting the SPS brand recognised and anchored in the minds of the key decision makers, and we’re having real success there. At shows in 2015, people were asking who SPS were, and in 2016 they’re now looking out for us and asking to see our products. After some very intensive sales and marketing strategies, we’re seeing the fruits of this. In particular, our drinkware range, especially the Americano® range, have been incredibly well received and have brought us a great deal of success. We’re excited to continue this growth in the future. Despite current discussion about a possible Brexit, SPS is expanding into Europe. Do you believe in a pan-European promotional products market?
Phil Morgan: Yes, we absolutely do. We’ve invested heavily in our expansion across Europe, and our growth has been a result of working closely with our customers and their customers, in order to understand their business needs. This has created strong trading relationships, which are crucial to our success in Europe.
The EU referendum will take place in June. Do you think a Brexit would affect our industry strongly?
Phil Morgan: Absolutely. An exit from Europe could make it much more difficult to maintain our working relationships and could be very detrimental to our business.