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One name covers it all
Since acquiring the Banner Group, uniform supplier Blue Max has been busy making a number of key changes, which are starting to come to fruition.



17 February 2012

Since acquiring the Banner Group, uniform supplier Blue Max has been busy making a number of key changes, in order to quickly and efficiently integrate the two businesses.

Many of those developments are now coming to fruition, as Laura Turner discovers....

The people behind Blue Max Banner have been very busy of late. In fact, over recent years, the company has implemented a number of key expansion plans that have seen the business – along with its product offer and services – evolve at an impressive rate.

Back in 2006, we saw Blue Max acquire Stag Knitwear in order to expand its schoolwear product offer before ploughing over £1m into the company’s headquarters in Trowbridge two years later in 2008. The investment included a new state-of-the-art warehouse facility with the capacity to store up to five million items of clothing.

The latest technological equipment was installed to service the warehouse, including high-tech forklifts and a sensored, environmentally-friendly lighting system to maximise efficiency and cut running costs. A new, two-tier mezzanine section was also added to the existing warehouse in order to provide hanging space for an extra 100,000 schoolwear garments.

In 2010, the company went on to acquire schoolwear supplier The Banner Group, as well as appointing Banner’s former managing director, Nigel Plenderleith as MD. The acquisition of both Banner and the appointment of Plenderleith was an integral move in terms of the company’s long-term development.

Essentially, it allowed Blue Max to tap into Banner’s expertise in the bespoke sector – an area it had wanted to branch into for some time – not to mention making it the largest provider of schoolwear to the independent trade.

The bespoke arm of the business is one Blue Max has earmarked for serious growth potential. “Blue Max bought Banner primarily for its school specific business and extensive made to order experience,” says Plenderleith.

“It has helped the company cater for the increased demand in this area of production – academies requesting unique uniforms, for instance – and has given us an edge. It’s not an area competitors can just dip into; it requires a wealth of knowledge, experience and technical ability. Blue Max Banner, for example, has 300 different blazers available in over 400 different fabrics.”

Since Banner came on board, the primary task for Blue Max has been integrating the two businesses as quickly as possible. The two sales forces united last year, so the main drive since then has been down to the two businesses operating from different IT systems.

“Blue Max had a basic website, but Banner didn’t have one at all,” says Jeremy Aston-Phillips, Blue Max Banner’s director of sales. “A completely new IT system has been created – due to go live on 1 November – which is a development that has required huge investment as we appointed a major web design company to carry out the work.”

The new Blue Max Banner website comes with a clear message; providing customers with an even better level of service. In a nutshell, it unites and encompasses all of the company’s products with any item from its brochure available to order online, 24 hours a day, providing customers with huge added efficiency.

The website is a phased project, with the first stage being to establish the online ordering and ensure everything runs smoothly with the utmost efficiency. The second phase, once the bones of the site are all in order, is to add further functionality behind the scenes, something Blue Max will be doing in due course.

Another key element of the site is that it has been designed in conjunction with a new Blue Max Banner brochure. As of 2012, Blue Max Banner will produce one single brochure with the four main brands – Blue Max, Banner schoolwear, Beau Brummel blazers and Medallion sportswear.

The launch of the website, along with a new company slogan and the production of a single brochure – which the company has designed with an Olympic theme – is all part of the business’ overall rationalisation programme to streamline its product range; one which will prevent duplication as well as provide customers with more competitive pricing and better stock levels, while also placing Blue Max Banner in a favourable financial position.

“For the next back to school period, we’re uniting both product and business marked by the new company slogan, One Name Covers It All,” says Plenderleith. “The brochure will offer everything from a basic white T-shirt through to a school-specific duffel coat and everything in between; it’s a very comprehensive product offering. Blue Max’s ethos is efficiency and customer service, and our plan is to roll this ethos out throughout the company to apply to Banner products, too.”

Those of you attending The Schoolwear Show this month can get an exclusive preview of the new website on the company’s stand, which will be one united stand split intotwo halves, with Blue Max and Medallion on one side and Banner and Beau Brummel on the other.

Visitors will also be able to view the new brochure and gain special promotions on orders. Most importantly, however, they will be able to view the company’s new products. Highlights from Blue Max Banner’s Back to School 2012 offering include more zip entry access blazer styles from Beau Brummel for increased flexibility in terms of embroidery, new rugby garments and a new range of boys’ trousers and shorts.

The company’s sportswear label, Medallion, will be showcasing a fresh, new logo across all of its garments, while the cricket range has been redesigned to offer more contemporary styling. Having identified increased demand for technical fabrics, more advanced materials have also been introduced within the sportswear.

With so many developments under way, logistical changes to the business have also had to be implemented. These include all boxed goods being dispatched from the warehouse at the company’s Trowbridge headquarters as of January 2012.

All hanging garments, meanwhile, will be dispatched from a new warehouse nearby, while the Stockport warehouse will close at the end of this year. The company’s Stockport sales office closed this month, with all Banner product – including plain blazers – being processed through Trowbridge.

Made-to-order blazers will be handled from existing premises in Seaham in the north-east, with more skilled staff currently being recruited and a new Seaham sales office opening this month.

In terms of non-blazer business – made-to-order skirts, trousers, knitwear and sportswear – this will be processed through the Nottingham office, which is also recruiting more staff. And the company’s accounting, including credit control, will be handled from Trowbridge from November.

Despite Blue Max Banner’s recent developments, the company hasn’t quite reached its crescendo. Next year it celebrates the 25th anniversary since Blue Max founder Mary Fawcus originally started the business. And what a quarter of a century’s worth of achievements there are to celebrate.

 

 
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