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BMB sports a new face
Blue Max Banner's new sales and marketing director, Laura Thomas, and her plans for the business. 

By Laura Turner

13 April 2016

Independent supplier of schoolwear and sportswear Blue Max Banner (BMB) has appointed Laura Thomas as group sales and marketing director, completing its senior management team and board of directors. Thomas has a long-standing career in the sales and marketing of sportswear and her appointment, together with BMB’s acquisition of the Orion Teamwear brand in January, reflects the business’s commitment to creating a strong and competitive sportswear brand with an operational performance to match. She tells Laura Turner how she will apply her industry knowledge and experience to the BMB business and what the plans are for BMB’s sportswear offer. 
 
Laura Turner: What is your career background prior to joining Blue Max Banner (BMB) as group sales and marketing director? 
Laura Thomas: My background is in strategic marketing planning. Specifically, I have a long-standing career in the sales and marketing of sportswear, having worked as a group marketing director/deputy managing director for Kukri Sports, a company I joined in 2004. Some of my career highlights include being part of the Kukri team awarded the Team England contract for the supply of performance, leisure and formalwear to the 2014 Commonwealth games in Glasgow. 
 
LT: What’s first on your agenda at BMB?
LTh: First on the agenda is sportswear, and overseeing the full integration of the Orion Teamwear brand into the BMB stable. I come with a wealth of knowledge from the MTO sportswear sector and will be drawing upon this.
 
LT: As you mentioned, BMB recently acquired sportswear business Orion Teamwear. What course of events led to the acquisition?
LTh: BMB has a great reputation in the schoolwear market, but it didn’t have a sportswear brand to match. BMB already offered a stock supported capsule collection of Orion products, so the relationship was already firmly established prior to the acquisition. When an opportunity came up to acquire the Orion Teamwear side of the business, it made perfect sense for BMB to grow its sportswear offering through this route. 
 
LT: What will BMB now be able to offer in terms of sportswear product?
LTh: Now, with Orion, BMB can offer the best possible full schoolwear solution and more crucially, be able to deliver MTO sportswear with BMB service levels. It can provide a full range of performance and trainingwear as well as a capsule range that is stock supported. Just as with schoolwear, BMB’s sportswear offering will continually evolve, offering the best designs and fabrics.
 
LT: As both former group marketing director/deputy managing director for Kukri Sports and an ex-international netball player, you have extensive sportswear knowledge. What advantage does this pose?
LTh: I have experience from both sides, from wearing kit – sometimes good, mostly bad – and then from the other side, where we have the ability to make kit great. Fit and design are hugely important and I’m passionate about delivering on both fronts.
 
LT: How do you view the current state of the school sportswear market? 
LTh: It has definitely grown over the years. Nowadays, children want to look good and feel good when they play their chosen sport and team games. Confidence plays a big role in team success; it’s also important that the school is well represented and stands out from the crowd. It’s an exciting market to work in, and one which I believe will continue to grow, strengthen and evolve.
 
LT: What do you view as the key areas of growth in school sportswear? And also the main challenges?
LTh: With the growth of Academies, more and more schools are looking for a personalised approach that covers all sports – MTO options, sublimation and more modern performance fabrics. The challenge here, for the schools, is to find a supplier that can deliver a team brand kit on time and one which represents good value, as well as providing great performance teamwear that fits the rigours of the sport and the school’s needs. With Orion Teamwear, BMB is perfectly positioned to deliver this with the service levels for which it is renowned.
 
LT: What is your strategy for BMB’s marketing? 
LTh: As BMB has grown significantly through acquisitions, and has a number of brands within its stable, we are currently in the process of undertaking a full review to simplify our brand architecture. The results of this review will form the basis of our future marketing. 
 
LT: Your responsibilities at BMB also include engaging with customers and understanding their needs – how do you plan to do this?
LTh: During my first few weeks at BMB, and as part of my role as sales director, I have taken every opportunity to get out and meet as many customers as I can. It’s already providing me with real insights into the wants and needs of our customers, the market we operate in, and in the products. As part of my remit, I plan to continue to do this on a regular basis. 
 
LT: Are further bolt-on acquisitions a possibility for BMB? 
LTh: In the past, sound and strategic acquisitions have contributed to BMB’s success and where an opportunity arises, that will still be a possibility. Right now, following the Orion Teamwear acquisition, the key priority is focusing our efforts on a smooth integration within the BMB business and delivering outstanding service to our customers.
 
LT: Is BMB’s senior management team and board of directors now complete? 
LTh: Yes, with myself joining the board on 11 January, and Nigel Osborne as CFO, the Blue Max Banner Group Board is now complete and ready to take the BMB business to the next level.
 
LT: What does that involve for BMB?
LTh: To invest in new product development as well as intensifying our efforts in marketing and branding. We will continue to build on our strong reputation in the market for providing stock supported products in a huge variety of size options to cater for evolving customer needs. Ultimately, we are working to become the ‘one stop shop’ for all schoolwear needs – both in school uniform and sportswear.


 
 
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