An innovative Teesside business which relies heavily on the European market has launched an ambitious three-year plan to ramp up sales.
MI Supplies has created the Brexit-busting ‘Project 2020’ – a digital campaign, to include new online stores in Germany and France, which is hoped will drive overall turnover to more than £11m.
The Thornaby-based supplier is already set to mark the end of its 12th year in operation with another record sales figure by the end of 2017.
Turnover is expected to climb to £2.5m, up from £2.3m in 2016, after MI Supplies boss Alex Ingham set the firm an ambitious new online target at the start of the year.
Along with its existing strong base of business customers, web sales have grown from £150,000 in 2016 to £700,000 this year after the company launched its new e-commerce site a year ago.
Ingham, who now wants to achieve £10m-a-year online by the end of 2020, said: “We’re not doing a complete 360-degree turn with the business, but we are looking to drive our online growth even further over the next three years.
“It might sound like a crazy figure we’ve plucked out of the sky. But people told me I was crazy quoting £2m in online sales a year ago, and we’re on course to achieve that in 2018.
“We’ve looked at how the website has grown. It has done exactly what we wanted it to after developing it a year ago. It has gone from doing £150,000 a year to about £700,000 this year.
“In October we achieved a record month of £290,000 in sales and we beat that figure again in November, so we can already see our growth month-by-month.
“To get to £10m by 2020, we need four online orders every 15 minutes. We’re not looking to re-invent the wheel, we’re just building on what we’ve already achieved and keep doing what works, and more importantly what works for the customer.
“We’re very proud of the fact we’re approaching our 12th birthday, but we’re not getting excited about it. It’s still a very difficult climate and we’re in a fiercely competitive market, which is why we’re always looking at how we can take the next development and drive us forward.
“But by the end of 2020 I want us to be interacting with more than four million customers a year worldwide, and we know it can be done.”
As part of its growth plans, MI Supplies plans to launch new online stores in Germany and France by the middle of 2018, both of which will have their own German and French domain names.
Ingham added: “We’ve done our market research and we know, for example, that the market worth in Germany is three-and-a-half times the size of the UK’s, and we think our multi-brand offering will compete in both countries.
“We can deliver to Germany a lot cheaper than German companies can deliver to the UK, so we’ve got a really good valuable proposition for the customer.
“We’re still picking up new B2B contracts and that remains an important part of the business. We still need both, but online gives us more markets and opens us up to the whole world.
“And we’re trading when we’re asleep, which helps me to sleep at night!”
MI Supplies is already one of the UK’s biggest suppliers of brands such as Carhartt, Snickers, CAT and Portwest and is looking to add to its high-end brand portfolio.
The firm launched in 2005, which moved from 3,000 sq ft units to a new 8,000 sq ft unit at Willows Court on Teesside Industrial Estate in February 2015, now has a growing client base consisting of more than 250 business customers including the fire brigade, local councils, engineering firms and charities, and have supplied over 115,000 orders to clients worldwide.
• Pictured above: MI Supplies managing director Alex Ingham with warehouse workers Andrew Noble (left) and Lewis Hanson.