Duralock make their exports count
UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) has supported Duralock as it expands it exports to around 80% of its £3 million business. The company supplies its specialist fencing to the most prestigious racecourses around the world. Following market visits to the Middle East and the USA, it has secured £950,000 of new business.
Duralock specialises in producing quality PVC-u fencing used at race tracks, sports fields, commercial buildings and residential housing. Since the company was established in 1991, it has worked all over the world, primarily in Europe but also in the Middle East, Japan, Australia, Russia, the Philippines, China and the USA.
Duralock has 14 permanent staff based in Oxfordshire in the UK, and extrusion of the PVC used in production takes place in Derbyshire and Hastings. The company has a turnover of £3 million a year, over 80% of which comes from overseas. Its French subsidiary, which develops new products and handles European sales, employs a staff of 3 and has a turnover of £2 million.
“Our uniquely designed fencing is made to be strong and stable, but flexible enough not to cause any serious damage if someone, such as a jockey, is launched into it at speed,” says Jeremy Seel, Managing Director of Duralock. “We started out in the high-pressure field of horse racing and equestrianism and our race rail is still our top selling product. We have installed our fencing at prestigious racing venues, such as Aintree and Ascot in the UK, Chantilly in France, Belmont Park and Churchill Downs in the USA and Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. We have also adapted our products for other sports grounds, including rugby, football and cricket, and for use by schools, local authorities, domestic and commercial clients, like factories and shopping centres.”
Initially, Duralock’s growth came largely through word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied customers. The company’s first overseas contract in 1998 was for 25km of fencing at the Goldophin Training Ground at Evry in France. This was followed by more business outside the UK, including a total of 250km of fencing for various clients in Qatar, such as the Camel Federation and Al Shaqab Equestrian Centre. Additional sales have been made in Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Dubai which is now its top export market.
Over the years, UKTI has supported Duralock with this overseas expansion. In 2012, the company commissioned an Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) to find out about business opportunities in Argentina. In 2010 it received funding through the Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) to attend the Al Fares trade fair in Dubai where Jeremy met the veterinary surgeon responsible for the camel racing. Over the years, this has led to orders in the UAE in excess of £600,000. In 2012, Duralock joined a UKTI Trade Mission to Turkey and Qatar and through this exposure the company has made sales to the Jockey Club of Turkey and secured new projects in Doha, Qatar.
“Without exporting, the growth of a business will necessarily be limited,” says Jeremy. “UKTI has supported us in one way or another in markets as diverse as Korea, Turkmenistan and India. The OMIS on Argentina identified potential clients and what we learned from it allowed us to make an informed decision about whether or not to pursue this market. The TAP support for exhibiting at the Equestrian and Camel show in Oman was also useful. Without it we may not have gone to that trade show, made new contacts and won new business.”
In 2011, Duralock attended a Meet the Buyer event organised by UKTI. There, Jeremy met a UKTI representative from Chicago who went on to contact racing and training facilities in the USA on the company’s behalf, to see if there was any interest in its fencing. With the help of financial support from UKTI, Jeremy made a market visit to the USA in 2013. He got in touch with a number of contacts, including some of those suggested by UKTI. He also took the opportunity to meet in person with Joe Carr, who went on to become Duralock’s market representative. Since his appointment, the company has generated an encouraging flow of business, with contracts worth over £350,000 for customers including Kentucky Downs and Churchill Downs in Kentucky, the New York Racing Association, and major race courses Belmont Park, Saratoga and Aquaduct in New York.
Establishing itself as an authority in its field, Duralock is also now assisting the Racing Commission and Jockey’s Guild to produce a rulebook for the USA governing fencing safety for race courses.
“We have seen that whenever we attend a UKTI event, something will come of it even, if not what we expected,” says Jeremy. “I’d go to them all if I had the time! We work in a very niche business and success can come down to personalities. It’s crucial that we win the confidence of potential clients and assure them that we can meet their particular requirements. This can really only be done face to face. Our visit to the USA was a runaway success. We were able to get into the hotspots of horse racing and breeding and secured a significant amount of new business. Having UKTI’s financial and practical support encouraged us to make the trip, and we’re so glad we did!”