Grants Light up NET LED Lighting
Cambridge based lighting company has a bright future.
NET LED Lighting has a respected reputation as the supplier of commercial and industrial lighting across the UK which is well deserved. Founded in 2009 by Chris Dawes and Paul Bubb, the company has developed over the years but went through a significant pivot in their business strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chris and Paul initially worked together in a business in the late 1980’s bringing together their complementary skills and knowledge. Having parted company amicably to explore different opportunities, they decided to put their experience together again to establish NED LED Lighting.
It was the early days of white LED lighting, when they won some prestigious contracts including for Kew Gardens and the British Library in London. However, they soon realised that for most commercial lighting contracts, it was the electrical contractor who selected the product and that they bought directly from a wholesaler. To take advantage of this, they made the brave decision to focus entirely on wholesale rather than direct sales. They have built up a successful business which now operates from a 36,000 sq/ft purpose-built offices and warehouse distribution facilities in Cambridge, holding £1.5m of stock for same-day despatch with delivery to the wholesaler’s premises or direct to sites.
Pre-COVID-19, they had eleven field based Regional Sales Mangers around the country and their plan was to increase their number. This team covered the UK, building relationships with wholesalers, generating business with support from the office-based customer support team.
These teams were furloughed during the pandemic, and a skeleton team kept the business running as they were an essential supplier of lighting to hospitals and the emergency services. “At this point we had two major challenges,” explained Chris, “Firstly how to provide a quality service to our customers without our active regional sales team and secondly, how to address our supply issues as much of our stock came from China which was experiencing severe disruption.”
To address the first challenge, they invested heavily in a digital platform with an online sales and order facility with real time stock availability, full product catalogue, pricing for wholesalers plus discounts and offers. This provided all the information that wholesalers required, available 24/7 and was integrated into the warehouse operations for picking, packing and despatch on a next day delivery basis which was a great sales advantage. The next step was to expand this e-commerce system to generate demand, and this is where Growth Works came in!
With help from the Growth Works team, they applied and were successful in receiving a revenue growth grant. This funded the development of their “Contractor Portal” which allowed electrical contractors and electricians to source the lighting they needed on the Contractor Portal, at a time convenient to them, with quotes provided from three wholesalers, or on the spot ordering from an online wholesaler. The grant also helped to cover the costs of marketing activity to promote the system including telemarketing calls to 15,000 electrical contractors followed up by a direct mail campaign (which is ongoing).
“The grant enabled us to develop and market a digitised system, fully automated which provides long-term efficiency gains to our business,” stated Chris. “The result of this activity has been an increase in sales for not just ourselves, but also the wholesalers who are engaged in the system which is fantastic!”
To address the supply chain difficulties of reduced product availability, increased costs and longer lead times for delivery, they decided to manufacture their most popular lighting products at their own facilities. To make this happen required significant infrastructure developments which a Capital Expenditure (Cap Ex) grant from Growth Works contributed to.
“The Growth Works grant reduced the risk of this new strategy and made our decision to progress with bringing production in-house happen quicker than would have happened otherwise – we now produce 6,000 units each month” commented Chris.
“These changes are all helping to future proof our business and bring positive results to our bottom line,” he explained. “As a result, we have taken the decision to manufacture more products in the UK and our new production facilities mean we can now make streetlights on-site, generating more jobs within the company and securing our supply chain.”
He adds that “through the grant investment, we have been able to make and implement the right decisions to take the business forward, at the right time.” He happily reports that this has brought increased sales, happier customers, increased employment and opportunities within the business.