Richard Cranham, International Sales Manager at Bristol Uniforms, looks back on 40 years of supplying firefighting PPE across Europe, and the strong relationships it has formed with its European distributors.
Bristol Uniforms is a company with a rich history, dating back to 1801 when it began life as a civilian clothing manufacturer in the heart of the city of Bristol in the UK. Overseas exports began as early as the 1830s, with garments shipped to the West Indies in large barrels. This soon expanded to include export markets across the globe, as far afield as Australasia, South Africa and South America.
To this day, the global reach and reputation of the company is still thriving, largely due to the strong relationships we have formed with more than 70 distributors across the world.
Europe in particular is a very strong market for us. We now have representation in 15 European countries, which each has its own preferences, traditions and purchasing systems for firefighter PPE. Our distributors play a vital role in understanding these specific markets and share our commitment to the provision of high-quality firefighting PPE for all our customers.
Bristol’s links with its very first European distributor were established with Tecniquitel in Portugal 40 years ago. With offices near Lisbon and Porto, Tecniquitel has a strong footing in the Portugese PPE market, supplying Bristol kit to volunteer and professional brigades across the country, as well as training schools and industry.
The family-run business sells a number of Bristol’s structural firefighting PPE styles, including BTech, Ergotech Action, and the popular flagship XFlex range. Its customers include brigades in Leixoes, Alcabideche and Aguda, as well as the Portuguese Fire Academy, which is based in Sao Joao de Madeira near Porto and Sintra near Lisbon.
To help minimise the risk of accidents out in the field, the company also runs its own accredited training academy, where partners and customers can learn how to use equipment, and about the fire safety rules and regulations which govern the industry.
Lisbon-based Rangel Gomes of Tecniquitel comments:
“During our 40-year partnership with Bristol, we have developed a very successful business in Portugal.
“Bristol consistently provides good quality kit, which meets all required standards. They are a ‘no nonsense’, reliable supplier that we can trust. We have a good working relationship with the management and sales team and I am certain this will continue in the future.”
Another European distributor that has had a significant impact on Bristol Uniforms sales for many years, is Total Safety, based in Barcelona in Spain. For some 27 years, Total Safety has been supplying Bristol kit to customers across the country including Madrid City and Community of Madrid fire brigades, plus the Spanish airports (AENA), and the Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia, Spain). The latter recently received delivery of 4,500 sets of Bristol’s Fireflex structural garments, a style specifically designed and developed for the Spanish market, combining Bristol’s popular Ergotech Action (called Firelite in Spain) and XFlex ranges. Total Safety also recently secured a large contract with Granada City Fire Brigade to supply XFlex structural firefighting garments – the first in the country to be made with a TITAN 1260 outer layer and Gore Fireblocker moisture barrier, providing superior breathability.
The firefighting PPE market in Spain differs significantly to that of many of its European neighbours, and the cleaning and maintenance of kit is of particularly high importance here. Total Safety have been pioneers in the development of professional cleaning and maintenance services in the country, establishing the first service of its kind in 1995, which covers all of Spain including the Balearic and Canary Islands.
Eric Griso Managing Director of Total Safety comments:
“Since we launched our PPE cleaning and maintenance business in 1995, extensive studies have been carried out suggesting that toxic substances can enter the body through inhalation and skin absorption. It is becoming more and more apparent that all firefighting PPE should be professionally decontaminated following a fire-related incident, including helmets, boots and gloves.
“At Total Safety, we collect soiled garments from our customers and return them clean and repaired within 72 hours. Although only 40% of fire services in Spain opt for a specialised care and maintenance package, the service is becoming ever more popular, as it offers reassurance that the health of their crew is being prioritised.”
Fritz Raschel Feuerschutz GmbH in Germany is an example of a relatively new Bristol Uniforms distributor, making great strides in a very competitive marketplace. Based in the town of Memmingen, Raschel became a distributor in 2012, and has quickly become one of our top performing distributors. The company has been run by the same family for three generations over 70 years and is now owned by Uwe Raschel junior.
The company supplies Bristol Uniforms PPE to emergency services across Germany, with customers including Aschheim and Waltenhofen Fire Brigades, as well as a special team in Bavaria responsible for co-ordinating the region’s response to severe weather, who wear Bristol’s lightweight RescueFlex kits and coveralls.
Raschel has also made inroads into the Austrian market, recently securing an order from Vienna Airport for Bristol’s structural firefighting XFlex kit, featuring the very latest Gore Parallon Liner System.
Uwe Raschel comments:
“Bristol Uniforms has a strong reputation in Germany for its quality, design and expertise. At Raschel, we have been able to build on this and identify opportunities to market Bristol designs suited for specific applications and preferences.
“German firefighters expect the very best protection from their PPE, along with excellent movement and breathability. They also tend to prefer bold colours for maximum visibility. Bristol Uniforms has the expertise and flexibility to provide all these things, with garments designed to meet detailed specifications and to accommodate a range of accessories, such as pockets, harnesses and badges.”
Bristol Uniforms and Raschel will be exhibiting together later this year at the A&A trade exhibition for safety, security and health at work in Dusseldorf, and again in 2020 at Intershutz in Hannover – the world’s leading trade fair for the fire and rescue services, civil protection, safety and security.
Other long-standing Bristol Uniforms distributors in Europe include Hallgrimsson in Iceland (33 years), TPI in Croatia (28 years), Rosenbauer in Slovenia (25 years) and Sea Safety in Finland (24 years). These were more recently joined by Mekkey in the Netherlands, Hesztia in Hungary, Antiplam in Macedonia, VSV in Russia, Solti in Bulgaria, Walter Stocker in Switzerland, Rosendahl in Norway and Centum in Serbia.
With customers across the length and breadth of Europe, these distributors play a crucial role in promoting Bristol’s international trade interests. Appointed for their knowledge of local markets, and experience of working with key decision makers in both the public sector and industrial markets, they have collectively shown a great deal of hard work and dedication. Without doubt, their support has helped us widen our international reach and to consolidate our position as one of the world’s leading suppliers of firefighting PPE.
For more information, go to www.bristoluniforms.com